Fri, 15 Feb 2013 04:45:00 GMT | By Reuters

Asteroid to pass close by Earth tonight

The non-profit Space Data Association, which tracks satellites for potential collisions, analyzed the asteroid's projected path and determined no spacecraft would be in its way


The non-profit Space Data Association, which tracks satellites for potential collisions, analyzed the asteroid's projected path and determined no spacecraft would be in its way.

"There is no reason to believe that this asteroid poses a threat to any satellites in Earth orbit," Space Data operations manager TS Kelso said in a statement. For scientists, DA14 presents a rare, albeit short, opportunity to study an asteroid close-up. In addition to trying to determine what minerals it contains, which is of potential commercial interest as well as scientific, astronomers want to learn more about the asteroid's spin rate.

The information not only will be useful to plotting DA14's future visits but could help engineers develop techniques to thwart more threatening asteroids. Even in areas that will be dark during DA14's pass by Earth, the asteroid is too dim to be spotted without a telescope or binoculars. NASA plans a half-hour broadcast beginning at 2 pM EST/1900 GMT on NASA Television and on its website which will include near real-time views of the asteroid from observatories in Australia, weather permitting.

The space camera, Slooh.com, will incorporate several live feeds, including views from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, in a webcast beginning Friday at 9 pM EST/0200 GMT.

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