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February 11-17, 2013 / Vol 32, No 6 / Hawai`i Island, USA

8 Feb 2013, 21:45 UTC
February 11-17, 2013 / Vol 32, No 6 / Hawai`i Island, USA
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Flyby Highlights Importance of Asteroids in Science, Commerce, Protection of Life on Earth
On February 15 asteroid 2012 DA14 will zoom past Earth at 28,100 kph, well within the orbit of the Moon and even below GPS satellites. The 45-meter, 130,000-ton ordinary chondrite type S (rocky, silicate) asteroid will transit the Earth-Moon system over 33 hours. Closest approach of 27,700 km occurs Friday at 19:24 UT over the eastern Indian Ocean off Sumatra, 6° South by 97.5° East. 2012 DA14 was first discovered 4.3M km from Earth about a year ago by the La Sagra Sky Survey of the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca in Spain. Scientists have cataloged only 1% of the estimated 500,000 Near-Earth Asteroids of similar size, which in a direct impact could release 2.5 megatons of energy – on par with the 1908 Tunguska Event that flattened 1,200 square km of forest in Siberia. Projects worldwide, including NASA NEOO, B612 Foundation and Pan-STARRS are working to identify asteroids and comets that could be hazardous to Earth. NASA is preparing an asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx, for launch in 2016. Asteroids have long inspired, intrigued and terrified, now they also seem to offer the promise of riches. Ventures ...

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