asteroid-nasa-2011-09-29The giant asteroid Vesta is seen in an image taken from the NASA Dawn spacecraft about 3,200 miles above the surface on July 24, 2011. Credit: NASA/JPL

Asteroid 2012 DA14, a chunk of rock about half the size of a football field, is due to fly past Earth on Feb. 15.

The 143,000 ton-asteroid will travel just 17,200 miles above the planet, closer to the Earth than many man-made satellites.

“This is a record-setting close approach,” Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program at JPL said. “But,” Yeoman added, “the odds of impact with a satellite are extremely remote. Almost nothing orbits where DA14 passes the Earth.”

Amateur stargazers will be able to spot the asteroid with their backyard telescopes, though its speed across the sky will make it hard to track.

A similarly-sized asteroid landed in Siberia in “Tunguska Event” in 1908 and flattened hundreds of square miles of forest, said NASA asteroid expert Don Yeomans, author of “Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us.”

NASA officials have said that DA14 is NOT on a collision course with Earth.

NASA will hold a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EST, Thursday, Feb. 7, to discuss the event. The flyby creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids.

The teleconference participants are:
–Lindley Johnson, program executive, Near-Earth Object (NEO) Observations Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
–Timothy Spahr, director, Minor Planet Center, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.
–Donald Yeomans, manager, NEO Office, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.
–Amy Mainzer, principal investigator, NEOWISE observatory, JPL
–Edward Beshore, deputy principal investigator, Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer Asteroid Sample Return Mission, University of Arizona, Tucson

Reporters can obtain dial-in information by sending an email to Dwayne Brown at dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov by noon Thursday. Requests must include the reporter’s name, affiliation and telephone number.

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at:

http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio

Related images for the teleconference will be available at:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/news/telecon20130207.html

For detailed information concerning the Earth flyby of 2012 DA14, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/asteroidflyby.html

A Ustream feed of the flyby from a telescope at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will be broadcast from 9 p.m. to midnight EST on Feb. 15. To view the feed and ask researchers questions via Twitter about the flyby, visit:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff
Source: NASA / Global Post

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