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Asteroid 2012 DA14; Record Breaking Asteroid to Buzz Earth Feb. 15

By Dexter Keyton, EnStars
on Jan 31, 2013 04:03 PM EST
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  • Asteroid
  • (Photo : NASA)

A massive meteor's path will cause it to buzz close to Earth's orbit on Feb. 15.

The asteroid, known as 2012 DA14, will pass approximately 17,200 miles above Earth which is not close enough for people to worry about any potential impact.

The path of the asteroid will come closer than man-made satellites launched into space, according to Don Yeoman of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at JPL.

Yoemans discussed the approaching asteroid this week with a statement reported by Fox News saying, "This is a record-setting close approach."

The space rock weighs roughly 143,000 tons and measures around 148 feet long, about half the size of a football field.

According to NASA, an object this size has never been recorded passing so close to Earth before, making it a historic opportunity for stargazers.

If the asteroid were to collide with Earth, which astronomers say will not happen, estimates suggest it could produce the equivalent of 2.4 megatons of TNT, enough to flatten a city, according to EarthSky. But given that 70 percent of Earth's surface is covered by water which could potentially create a devastating tsunami.

A similar asteroid struck Earth in 1908 known as the Tunguska event when a 131ft asteroid completely flattened over 772 square miles of a forest in Siberia, according to USA Today.

NASA will track the asteroid with its Goldstone Radar in the Mojave Desert beginning Feb. 16.

The data scientist hope to collect will be used for 3D mapping which will allow researchers to examine the physical characteristics such as size, spin and reflectivity.

Sky watchers might want to keep their eyes peeled that evening as the asteroid should be visible with a backyard telescope.

The only problem will be tracking the space rock. It will sail twice the width of the moon across the sky for every minute that it is visible, making it tough to track for amateur stargazers.

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