Asteroid 2012 DA14 in record-breaking Earth pass

 

Nasa coverage of the moment the asteroid passed closest to Earth

Related Stories

An asteroid as large as an Olympic swimming pool has raced past the Earth at a distance of just 27,700km (17,200mi) - the closest ever predicted for an object of that size.

It passed far closer even than the geosynchronous satellites that orbit the Earth, but there was no risk of impacts or collisions.

Its closest approach was at 19:25 GMT.

For regions in darkness, it should have remained visible until about midnight through good binoculars or a telescope.

The asteroid's arrival was preceded by a damaging meteor event in Russia on Friday - but indications from the meteor's path suggest that the two events are entirely unrelated - just a "cosmic coincidence", as Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University Belfast told BBC News.

Asteroid path infographic

The asteroid orbits the Sun in 368 days - a period similar to Earth's year - but it does not orbit in the same plane as the Earth.

As it passes - at 7.8km/s (17,450 mi/hr) - it will come from "under" the Earth and return back toward the Sun from "above".

It passed directly over the eastern Indian Ocean, making for the best viewing in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia.

But keen viewers everywhere used several live streams of the event on the internet, including a feed from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Nasa.

2012 DA14 was first spotted in February 2012 by astronomers at the La Sagra Sky Survey in Spain - once a fairly small-scale, amateur effort to discover and track asteroids that has in recent years become a significant contributor to our knowledge of these "near-Earth objects".

They caught sight of the asteroid after its last pass, at a far greater distance.

Asteroid size infographic

From their observations, they were able to calculate the asteroid's future and past paths and predict Friday's near-miss - which will be the closest the object comes for at least 30 years.

Prof Fitzsimmons said that it is a scientific opportunity not to be missed.

"When asteroids come this close, it's very important to try to learn about them - it's become so bright, so it's so easy to study," he told BBC News.

"We get an additional insight into these small objects, which are the most likely impactors on Earth."

The notion that it is these smaller, tens-to-hundreds of metres-sized objects that pose the greatest potential threat to Earth is explored in the BBC feature article Can we know about every asteroid? .

The asteroid was only visible from some regions on Earth. Click through these maps produced by Dr Geert Barentsen, of the University of Hertfordshire, to see when the asteroid was visible in different areas:

For skywatchers in the UK, the graphic below indicates roughly where in the northern sky to try to spot 2012 DA14.

Asteroid path skymap
 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
 

Comments 5 of 9

 

More Science & Environment stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa


  • Woman in swimming pool Green stuff

    The element that makes a familiar smell when mixed with urine


  • People take part in an egg-cracking contest in the village of Mokrin, 120km (75 miles) north of Belgrade, Serbia on 20 April 2014In pictures

    Images from around the world as Christians mark Easter Sunday


  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health


BBC Future

Sky lines

Most stunning images of the week

Blood red Moon and a robot jockey Read more...

Programmes

  • An aerial shot shows the Olympic Stadium, which is closed for repair works on its roof, in Rio de Janeiro March 28, 2014.Extra Time Watch

    Will Rio be ready in time to host the Olympics in 2016? The IOC president gives his verdict

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.