Asteroid to pass close to Earth next week

2012 DA 14 will not be visible from south Texas


An asteroid the size of half a football field and weighing more than an aircraft carrier is expected to buzz past Earth next week.

Traveling at a speed of 5 miles per second, there is no danger that the asteroid, 2012 DA 14, will collide with Earth, but it will move close enough to serve as a wake-up call some scientists believe.

"It's the closest asteroid approach we've seen since we've been watching these things," said Bob Kelley, coordinator at the Scobee Planetarium.

The asteroid will come within 17,200 miles of Earth, passing closer than some satellites. If it were to strike Earth, it would hit with the equivalent of 2.4 million tons of TNT. 

This type of collision is rare, happening every 1,200 years or so.

The last space object of this size to strike Earth occurred in 1908 in Siberia. It leveled millions of trees, affecting an area of 820 square miles. 

"We don't want to go the way of the dinosaurs by not knowing about an impact," said Kelley. "So studying these types of asteroids gives us more knowledge about how close they can come and plan in the future about how we can push them away."

Meaning scientists will be watching 2012 DA 14 closely. 

Never before have scientists had the chance to observe a close fly-by of something so large. 

Still, do not expect to see the asteroid if you live in South Texas.

"We have no chance of seeing it cross our sky," said Kelley.  "However, on the other side of earth, where it's dark, folks with large telescopes will be tracking this very faint object going across the sky very quickly."

The asteroid will pass by San Antonio on Feb. 15 around 1:30 p.m.

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