Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012 DA12 In February 2013: 0.07 LD! The Truth Behind this "Cosmic Threat"

Recent talk has been accumulating around the internet and the astronomy world of a recently discovered asteroid by name of 2012 DA12. The main purpose of such a sudden news real was the patent fact of its close passing, at respectively 0.07 LD (Lunar Distances, the distance from the moon to earth). What's more shocking is that this asteroid is going to pass within the border of geosynchronous satellites and others of the kind! Although astronomers predict really no chance of this asteroid hitting the earth, it still is amazing to think we will just be 10471.869 kilometers from an asteroid in February 2013!

Discovered on February 23, 2012, by the OAM Observatory in La Sagra in Spain, 2012 DA12 is the first asteroid (or near-earth-object) ever predicted to sweep this close to earth (0.07 LD) in the history of closest-approaches predictions. Calculations have been carried out by ephemerides, and according to NASA, "there is estimated to be a cumulative 0.0067% chance (1 in 15,000) of 2012 DA14 impacting Earth sometime between 2020 and 2042."

2012 DA14 is rather small for an asteroid, around 46 meters in diameter, but the results, if an earth collision was outcome, would be close to that of a "thermonuclear bomb" Earthsky wrote. If you thought Comet Elenin was a "threat to earth" or you're thinking 2012 is "doomsday", this should seem like the end of the world; but as mentioned earlier, there is really NO chance of collision. But what about the suspected 2020 collision? We have the explanation of one of NASA's astronomers that:
These large orbit uncertainties do allow a remote possibility of an impact in 2020 – approximately one chance in 83,000 – with additional remote possibilities beyond 2020. However, by far the most likely scenario is that additional observations, especially in 2013, will allow a dramatic reduction in the orbit uncertainties and the complete elimination of the 2020 impact possibility. [as said by Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory].
For asteroid watchers and photographers, this event looks slim. NASA explains, "On this date [February 13, 2013], the asteroid will travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky with its closest Earth approach occurring about 19:26 UTC when it will achieve a magnitude of less than seven, which is somewhat fainter than naked eye visibility. About 4 minutes after its Earth close approach, there is a good chance it will pass into the Earth's shadow for about 18 minutes or so before reappearing from the eclipse. When traveling rapidly into the northern morning sky, 2012 DA14 will quickly fade in brightness." 

Earth Impact Risk Summary (from NASA)

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