Near-Miss Asteroid Won't Be Visible From Westwood
Scientists expect the asteroid to come very close to the Earth - about 17,200 miles away, or only 1/13th the distance to the moon. While a collision is not expected, the asteroid would have enough force to "flatten" about 750 square miles.
An asteroid Friday will pass Earth within the moon's orbit, flying lower than communications, weather and GPS satellites high above the planet, according to Space.com. But skywatchers should know that you won't be able to see it from Westford.
While it will be the nearest to Earth an object of its size has ever passed, asteroid 2012 DA 14 won't be visible from Massachusetts, even with a telescope, because the action will happen during the daylight hours, said astronomer David Dundee, who analyzes images and data captured by NASA's fireball cameras at Tellus Science Museum.
"The distance is about 1/13th the distance to the moon," Dundee said, adding the asteroid will be the closest—17,200 miles from Earth—at 2:24 p.m. "2012 DA 14 is about 150 feet across and traveling at a speed of over 17,000 miles per hour.
"There is no chance of this object hitting the Earth on Friday or any time in the foreseeable future," Dundee said. "If this object were to hit the Earth it would flatten an area about 750 miles in diameter."
2012 DA 14 was discovered nearly a year ago, prompting speculation the asteroid, which NASA says will travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky, might hit a satellite.
It will be close, and about 100,000 others could be headed our way, says famed science educator Bill Nye, who heads up the Planetary Society.
"This one will miss us by about 15 minutes—15 minutes difference and that's it," Nye told CNN.
He said 2012 DA 14 should serve as a wake-up call to the importance of defending Earth against asteroid impacts.
"Get nervous, but not about this one," Nye said.