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Asteroid "2012 DA 14"

Scientists predicted that Asteroid 2012 DA 14 - about half the size of a football field - would fly past Earth on the 15th of February, 2013.  Since regular sky surveys began - in the 1990s - astronomers have never seen an object so big come so close to our planet.

The asteroid's name -  "2012 DA 14" - tells us that it was first discovered in 2012:

2012 DA14 has not been in the catalogues for very long - it was discovered in February of 2012 by astronomers at the La Sagra Sky Survey program in southern Spain and reported to the Minor Planet Center, which designates minor bodies in our solar system.

At the time of the discovery, the asteroid had just made a fairly distant passage by Earth, about seven times farther than the distance to the moon. Since 2012 DA14's orbital period around the sun has been about 368 days, which is very similar to Earth's, the asteroid made a series of annual close approaches.

This year's is the closest approach, and is the closest the asteroid will come for at least three decades.  But this encounter will shorten 2012 DA14's orbital period to about 317 days, changing its orbital class from Apollo to Aten, and its future close approaches will follow a different pattern.


Media Credits

Clip and quotation, above, from NASA/JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) at CalTech.

 

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