We may not be headed for a Deep Impact-style global disaster yet, but this month an asteroid will come very, very, scarily close to hitting us.
On Feb. 15 (which, if you're keeping score, is two weeks from today), Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass by Earth and come within 17,200 miles of the planet's surface. As you can see from the above diagram, 2012 DA14 will actually pass within the Geosynchronous Ring, which means that it will briefly be closer to Earth than many communications satellites that are in either geosynchronous or geostationary orbits.
"This is a record-setting close approach," said planetary scientist Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we've never seen an object this big get so close to Earth."
Yeah, it sounds like a setup for an emergency mission on a secret space shuttle, but according to Yeomans we don't need to send up Bruce Willis. Though it will come very close to the planet, 2012 DA14 is "definitely" not hitting Earth. So, no need to duck and cover, but if you have a telescope you can try to catch a glimpse of the asteroid as it passes - if you're quick.
“The asteroid will be racing across the sky, moving almost a full degree (or twice the width of a full Moon) every minute," Yeomans said in the statement. "That’s going to be hard to track."
(Via Huffington Post)