Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ll likely already be aware that an asteroid, (which goes by the name of “2012 DA14”) is (quite luckily) about to near-miss a possible collision with Earth, today.
The huge lump of rock is said to span a colossal 50 meters – (that’s 160 ft) – and have an estimated mass of 190,000 metric tons.
No need to panic just yet — experts say DA14 is set to miss Earth by roughly 17,200 miles. In astronomical terms, though, that’s pretty darn close. The above artist rendition should give you a good idea of the size of the rock, compared to Earth.
DA14 was originally first discovered on February 23, 2012, at the Observatorio Astronómico de La Sagra, Granada in Spain, after the space rock passed 2,600,000 km from Earth — and what’s particularly interesting about its passing, today, is that when DA14 comes into view – (becuase it will be visible) – at approximately 19:25 Universal Time, incredibly, the distance between the centerpoint of Earth and the asteroid itself will be just 34,050 km (or 21,160 miles).
To put that distance in perspective, the asteroid will grace past Earth right in-between our upper Stratosphere and the geo-sync satellite belt.
Of course, you’ll need a telescope or a pair of binoculars to see it fully. It will pass about 27,700 kilometers (17,200 miles) above Earth’s surface, that’s closer than satellites in the geosynchronous orbit. The best viewing location for the closest approach is expected to be Indonesia, or Eastern Europe, with those in Asia and Australia also expected to get a front row seat upon the asteroid’s closest approach.
Back down to reality, the asteroid is not expected to pass any closer than 1950 km from the geosynchronous satellite orbit belt, but there is very small chance it could knock out one of the satellites we all depend on everyday for telecommunication — so if you do experience dropped calls today, you might want to think twice about blaming AT&T or Verizon for the interruption in service.
According to the BBC, the rock is the size of an “Olympic swimming pool,” and when it passes the Earth, today, will officially become an asteroid with “the closest ever [pass] predicted for an object of that size.”
We’ve listed a few apps below which should help you track DA14‘s near-miss with Earth, more effectively.
UPDATE – Russia Hit By Meteor Shower
Perhaps as a precursor of today’s near-miss of 2012 DA14, Sky News is reporting that a meteor shower has hit central Russia this afternoon, injuring 524 (as of writing).
Fragments of at least one meteorite – the weight of a double-decker bus – were seen falling from the morning sky in the Chelyabinsk region at around 9am local time, around 1,500km east of Moscow.
Witnesses described feeling a pressure wave and hearing explosions overhead as the object hurtled to earth. Windows shattered and there were localised power cuts, sparking panic among residents.
It is so far unclear if the event is related to the passing of DA14.
UPDATE 2 – Meteor Hits Central London?
Slip-up by Sky News anchor has meteors landing in Central London.
Ustream is hosting a number of streams relating to DA14′s near-grace with Earth, the most trafficked at the moment being the stream provided by the Clay Center Observatory. There’s also a stream available from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
SkySafari 3 Plus
With SkySafari 3 Plus, you can follow spectacular events like eclipses and transits in Earth’s sky – or from anywhere else in the Solar System! … including, the pass-over of DA14.
Note: SkySafari Plus for Mac is down in price this weekend especially for DA14′s near-miss.
SkySafari Plus shows you 2.5 million stars, and 31,000 deep sky objects – including the entire NGC/IC catalog. It shows the Solar System’s major planets and moons using NASA spacecraft imagery, and includes over 4,000 asteroids, comets, and satellites with updateable orbits. It can point your GoTo or “Push-To” telescope anywhere in the sky, using your Mac’s built-in WiFi, or a USB-to-serial adapter.
SkySafari Plus accurately shows you the sky from any place on Earth, at any time up to one million years in the past or future. It includes 1100 encyclopedic descriptions of the constellations, stars, and planets written by professional astronomers. And it contains over 800 images from NASA space missions, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the world’s foremost astro-photographers.
Asteroid alert keeps track of asteroids and comets passing relatively close to our planet. The application, for any approaching comet or asteroid, shows the name, date in which the object will draw closer to Earth, its approximate diameter (estimated on the absolute magnitude of the celestial body), its distance from Earth, and its speed. In addition, the tool shows the most recent approaches and those expected on the following days, with a 7.5 million km. accuracy.
An object of approximately 150 m. in diameter approaching Earth, will be defined as potentially dangerous, in fact, the Earth gravitational field may lead it towards our atmosphere. All data is directly obtained from the NASA’s NEO Earth Close Approaches for reference.