Asteroid Expert on ABC World News
By Ned Potter, ABC World News
It begins to get on your nerves. Every now and then — a few times a year, depending on what you count — an asteroid goes whizzing past Earth at fairly close range, reminding us that sometimes outer space isn’t quite as, well, spacious as we may like to think.
This month’s visit will be by a fast-moving space rock called 2012 DA14, which will pass about 17,200 miles from Earth’s surface on Feb. 15. It’s only about 150 feet across, so astronomers say not to bother to look for it in the sky — but it will be closer than the communications satellites that ring the planet, 22,000 miles away.
NASA scientists have had a lot of time to plot the orbit of 2012 DA14, and they say they are quite sure it will miss us. There are dust-sized pieces of debris plowing harmlessly into the atmosphere all the time; we see some of them as shooting stars at night. Impacts like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago, are separated by tens of millions of years.
“But it has happened and it can happen again,” said Humberto Campins of the University of Central Florida. “So as a species it is important we learn all we can about asteroids in case we have to deflect one. And there are other reasons for us to investigate. Asteroids could provide precious resources both to Earth and to space travelers, and they hold secrets to how our planet and life on it formed.”
Read the entire story from ABC World News here.