An Asteroid’s Date with Earth

posted on 2/8/13

Better go out in the backyard and dust off your Y2K bunker’s secret entrance. You’re going to need more than just a Mylar-coated space blanket and that stockpile of Beefaroni. The planet Earth is currently bracing itself for the impact of an asteroid that is roughly half the size of a football field. And this time, we can’t rely on Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to save us.

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Ha, just kidding. Earth will not be destroyed today or in the coming months. But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is expecting an asteroid to fly close enough to earth on February 15th that they will probably be fielding a lot of doomsday calls in the next few days. So if you don’t have any Valentine’s Day Plans, here’s your opportunity to declare your love of science while preparing for Asteroid 2012DA14.


According to NASA, 2012DA14 will pass Earth at a “remarkably close distance.” The asteroid is only going to be about 17,200 mile away from the Earth’s surface at its closest distance. Let’s not forget that NASA deals in light-years, so when they start prefacing distances with the word “only,” we know they aren’t joking around. For reference, this asteroid will be closer to us than the satellites we have orbiting the earth.


NASA is pretty confident that the orbit of 2012DA14 will not impact the earth but can we ever really trust science?





Yes, we can trust science. Scientists get paid to pay attention to smart things that are difficult to conceptualize. Besides, the orbit of this asteroid is so well understood that NASA has it mapped out for at least the next thirty years. The next time we can expect this little “minor planet” to come remotely close to Earth is in 2046, when it will pass no closer than 620,000 miles. Phew. This specific asteroid is special because it is expected to be the “closest ever predicted Earth approach for an object this large.” That means that this thing is huge and it’s going to be close.


Though our top scientists are pretty certain that this asteroid will not strike earth, isn’t it fun to wonder what could happen if it did? If 2012DA14 does impact earth (and remember—it won’t) it wouldn’t be as bad as the movie Armageddon, that’s for sure. But it still wouldn’t be much fun. In 1908, a “near-Earth object” made impact in Tunguska Siberia. The asteroid of 1908 was slightly smaller than 2012DA14 but scientists think its explosion leveled 750 square miles of forest. It’s safe for you to put away your space helmet this time though. NASA will not need you to blow up 2012DA14 to save earth. But don’t turn your phone off because you might get the call when aliens invade.

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