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Asteroid to have a close brush with Earth on Feb. 16

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Scientists say there is no possibility of collision with our planet

An asteroid will have a close encounter with the Earth on Feb. 16, coming closer than some of the geostationary satellites orbiting the planet.

The near earth asteroid, 2012 DA14, about 45 metre in diameter. It is on a close encounter course with the planet, and will come closest at around 12.55 a.m. (India time) on Feb 16, according to Debiposad Duari, director (research and academics) of the Birla Institute of Fundamental Research.

“At the point of closest approach, its distance will be about 34,100 km from the centre of the Earth.

“Given the radius of the Earth, it will be about 28,000 km from its surface, a small distance in terms of astronomical figures,” Duari said in a statement. This is less than one-tenth of the distance to the moon.

The asteroid was discovered in an observatory in Spain on Feb. 23 last year, a week after it passed close to the Earth at a distance of 1.6 million km.

The orbital period of the asteroid was 366 days. This year, it will come closer to the Earth than in the past, Duari said. The asteroid is 130,000 metric ton of massive rock.

We're safe

“Calculations by astronomers have shown that there is no possibility of this asteroid actually hitting the Earth, but it will pass closer to earth compared to some of the geosynchronous orbits of certain satellite,” he said.

The geostationary satellites orbit at a distance of 95 km from each other, so, there is not much of a chance that the asteroid may hit one such satellite.

The next close approach will be Feb 16, 2046 when it will pass no closer than 60,000 km from the centre of the earth. The asteroid will not be visible through the naked eye, but as Feb 15 draws closer, it can be viewed through a medium size telescope.

The Goldstone Deep space Communication complex in California will keep a constant watch on the asteroid from Feb 16 through Feb 20, trying to get more information about its orbit.

“Such events remind us, from time to time, our position and environment in space, the solar system, and objects associated with it, which can be considered our neighbours,” he added.IANS

If it were to hit Earth, it is estimated that it would have produced an explosion equivalent of 2.5 megatons of TNT

What are asteroids?

Asteroids are small, rocky bodies that have been left over from the formation of the planets 4.5 billion years ago. They are often known as 'minor planets'. There are thought to be billions of these chunks of rock. Courtesy: European Space Agency


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