A 150-foot asteroid orbiting Earth called 2012 DA14 will pass so close to Earth it will fly UNDER man-made satellites orbiting our planet.
Nasa’s Impact Risk report said that the odds of the space rock actually hitting our planet are very low, but on February 15 next year it will pass just 17,000 miles from Earth, closer than ‘geostationary’ satellites.
If an asteroid of that size hit our planet, it would cause an explosion similar to a nuclear blast.
Two astronomers from the the Observatorio Astronómico de La Sagra in Spain spotted 2012 DA14 in late February and its orbit has been calculated to be very similar to Earth’s.
Some reports suggested that on February 15 next year an impact was a possibility, but U.S astronomer Phil Plait, the creator of the Bad Astronomy blog, has ruled out an impact.
He wrote: “Asteroid 2012 DA14 is almost certainly not going to hit Earth next February. And by, almost certainly, I mean it. The odds of an impact are so low they are essentially zero. This does not rule out an impact at some future date, but for now we’re safe.”
The space rock will come within 17,000 miles of Earth, which is closer than some of our satellites, but Plait says this is nothing to worry about.
He adds: “Seventeen thousand miles is well beneath many of our own orbiting satellites. To the best of my knowledge, this is the closest pass of a decent-sized asteroid ever seen before the actual pass itself. However, let’s again be very clear, it will miss. In astronomical terms, 17,000 miles is pretty close, but in real human terms it’s a clean miss.”
After next year, 2012 DA14’s closest brush with Earth will come in 2020, but Plait said that even then, the odds of an impact will be less than the chance of being hit by lightning in your lifetime – 1 in 100,000.
Last night a space rock caused panic across the UK, with police forces inundated with calls after spotting it in the sky and mistaking it for a burning aircraft.
The Met Office tweeted: “Hi all, for anyone seeing something in the night sky, we believe it was a meteorite.”
The Kielder Observatory also reported the sighting of a ‘huge fireball’ travelling from north to south over Northumberland.
The Observatory posted on Twitter: “Of 30 years observing the sky, fireball best thing I have ever seen period.”
Attribution: Ted Thornhill