Asteroid 2012 DA14 Flying Close to Earth

Posted at: 02/14/2013 6:07 PM
Updated at: 02/14/2013 6:16 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- Scientists and amateur astronomers alike are eagerly awaiting tomorrow's historic flyby of Asteroid 2012 DA14. The asteroid is half the size of a football field and it's the first recorded rock of this size that has come this close to Earth.

Randy Hemann, President of the Rochester Astronomy Club, and Mayo High School Planetarium Director Larry Mascotti, have both been keeping an eye on this asteroid for a while now.

"We're so busy on the surface of the Earth that we don't connect ourselves with this larger environment," said Mascotti.

Until a rock that weighs 130,000 metric tons is heading our way.  

The animation, created by scientists tracking DA14, shows the asteroid will come within 17,000 miles of the Earth.

"17,000 miles in astronomical terms is kind of a brush, a close call," said Mascotti.

So close in fact, that it'll pass inside the orbits of Earth's GPS satellites. Hemann says there's no possibility of the asteroid crashing into Earth.

"If our solar system was the size of the United States, our Earth is the size of a two car garage so it would be pretty tough to pick a two car garage to hit," said Hemann.

Tough, but unfortunately, not impossible. DA14 is scheduled for a return visit in exactly 33 years. For now, there's no way to tell how close it'll come.

"Although there's thousands, maybe millions of these objects, the Earth is a very small target," said Hemann.

The asteroid will past Earth early tomorrow afternoon. Right now, it's scheduled to be cloudy, so the chances of actually seeing it are slim.