|ScienceCast: Record-Setting Asteroid Flyby|
Good thing that asteroid isn’t going to hit Earth today. Bruce Willis is too busy promoting his new “Die Hard” flick to reprise “Armageddon” for us and rescue NASA (and the rest of the world) from a hunk of rock headed straight for us.
While 17,200 miles seems like a pretty safe distance, asteroid 2012 DA14 is actually cutting it close. At its closest approach on Friday at 2:24 p.m. EST, the asteroid will be 5,000 miles closer to Earth than the ring of GPS, weather and communications satellites in orbit around the planet.
According to NASA, asteroids like 2012 DA14 only come this close to Earth once every 40 years or so. NASA’s Near Earth Object Program has helped to detect and track 90 percent of the largest near-Earth asteroids, and so far none are likely to require Bruce Willis to round up a bunch unlikely heroes and blow that rock out of the sky.
NASA will be live-streaming the flyby via a telescope at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today.
There’s already tons of YouTube video footage of the meteor that hit Russia this morning. The jury is out over whether this sky rock is related to asteroid 2012 DA14, but it sure shook up the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia’s Ural Mountains. The blast injured hundreds, caused damage to buildings and temporarily disrupted Internet communication, according to news reports. A nearby zinc-processing plant sustained significant damage and storefronts were shattered.
The New York Times reported that government response “was huge. Seven airplanes were deployed to search for places where meteorites might have fallen and more than 20,000 people dispatched to comb the area on foot, according to the Ministry of Emergency Situations. There were also 28 sites designated to monitor radiation. No unusual readings had been detected, the ministry reported.”
“The area around Chelyabinsk is also home to ‘dozens of defense factories, including nuclear factories and those involved in production of thermonuclear weapons,’ Vladimir Lipunov, an astrophysicist at the Shternberg State Astronomy Institute reported to the Times. “No one needs to be told what the Urals is,” Mr. Lipunov told the NTV television station. “A second hit in the same area is unlikely and everything could have been much, much worse.”