Huge asteroid to veer earth, may destroy satellites

Huge asteroid to veer earth, may destroy satellites

A 150-foot-wide, 140,000 tonne asteroid may come so close to Earth early next year that it might destroy communications satellites.

The asteroid, DA14, discovered by astronomers at LaSagra Observatory in Spain, is estimated to come near enough to Earth on February 15, 2013, that it could disrupt geosynchronous satellites.

While NASA have said the chance of the asteroid hitting Earth is 0.031 per cent, if it did it would hit with the force of a 2.4 megaton explosion, similar to the mysterious Tunguska event of 1908 which levelled hundreds of square miles of Siberian forest, Daily Mail reported.

The asteroid's exact orbital path is being determined by NASA and astronomers are erring on the side of caution in case it does come in contact with a satellite.

"That's very unlikely, but we can't rule it out," said Paul Chodas, a planetary astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena California.
While the the asteroid is currently a 'fuzzy little blob', as seen through telescopes, 2012 DA14 may eventually come to pass 21,000 miles away from the Earth putting synchronous satellites in the firing line, the paper said.

"The orbit for 2012 DA14 is currently very Earth-like, which means it will be very close to Earth on a regular basis," said Chodas.

In the preceding months to February, NASA will try to form a fuller picture of where and how close the satellite will get, the paper reported.

"We don't know exactly where it is, and that uncertainty maps through to an uncertainty in the orbit and predictions," said Steven Chesley, who also works at JPL.

But for now, no one at NASA is worried that the asteroid will hit but say that 2012 DA14 might be visible from Earth as it flies past.

"It might be visible to people with good binoculars or a small telescope," said Chodas, adding that, "For such a small object, that's really unusual."

While astronomers examine their initial estimate of a 0.031 percent chance of 2012 DA14 hitting earth, they cannot rule out the possibility of it hitting in 2020 on its next fly-pass.

That is because they will have to see how close 2012 DA14 gets to Earth in February and how much our gravitational pull affects its course for its next fly by in 2020.

If it does hit, scientist believe that its south-bound approach mean that it will hit Antarctica or the Southern Ocean.

The detonation of the 140,000 tonne rock would not end civilisation, but would potentially cause massive loss of life if it hit a populated centre.

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