A piece of rock will have a close encounter with the Earth Feb 16,
coming closer than some of the geostationary satellites orbiting
the planet, said an official.
The near earth asteroid, 2012 DA14, about 148 metre in diameter,
is on a close encounter course with the planet, and will come
closest at around 12.55 a.m. Feb 16, according to Debiposad Duari,
director, Research and Academic M.P. Birla Institute of
Fundamental Research, of the M.P. Birla Planetarium here.
"At the point of closest approach, its distance will be about
34,100 km from the centre of the Earth.
"Given the radius of the Earth, it will be about 28,000 km from
its surface, a small distance in terms of astronomical figures,"
Duari said in a statement.
The asteroid was discovered in an observatory in Spain Feb 23 last
year, a week later when it passed close to the Earth at a distance
of 1.6 million km.
"The orbital period of the asteroid was 366 days, and that is the
reason, exactly after one year Feb 15 it is coming close to earth
- mush closer than the previous years," Duari said.
The 130,000 metric ton massive rock will undergo a change in its
period due to the close encounter with the Earth, and the approach
will reduce the orbital period of the asteroid from 366 days to
"Calculations by astronomers have shown that there is no
possibility of this asteroid actually hitting the Earth, but it
will pass closer to earth compared to some of the geosynchronous
orbits of certain satellite," he said.
The geostationary satellites orbit at a distance of 95 km from
each other, so, there is not much of a chance that the asteroid
may hit one such satellite.
The next close approach will be Feb 16, 2046 when it will pass no
closer than 60,000 km from the centre of the earth.
The asteroid will not be visible through the naked eye, but as Feb
15 draws closer, it can be viewed through a medium size telescope.
The Goldstone Deep space Communication complex in California will
keep a constant watch on the asteroid from Feb 16 through Feb 20,
trying to get more information about its orbit.
"If it were to hit Earth, it is estimated that it would have
produced an explosion equivalent of 2.5 megatons of TNT," Duari
"Such events remind us, from time to time, our position and
environment in space, the solar system, and objects associated
with it, which can be considered our neighbours," he added.