The asteroid 2012 DA14 is a near-Earth asteroid with an estimated diameter of about 50 meters and an estimated mass of about 190,000 metric tons.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 was discovered by a team of amateur astronomers affiliated with the La Sagra Sky Survey at the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca in southern Spain on Feb. 23, 2012
On Friday, when asteroid 2012 DA14 approaches within 17,200 miles of Earth, it will be over Sumatra, Indonesia at its closest point while zipping by the planet. That’s just one-thirteenth the average distance from Earth to the moon.
According to NBC News, experts estimate that asteroids the size of Asteroid 2012 DA14 hit our planet every 1,200 years or so, exploding with the energy of a 2.5-megaton atomic bomb. The last such impact struck a remote region of Siberia without warning in 1908, flattening 820 square miles of forest. If an object that big were to hit in just the wrong place, it could wipe out a city.
Even though the 150-foot-wide (45-meter-wide) asteroid is the biggest object of its kind to be seen coming this close to Earth, its orbit is so well-known that NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program can rule out any chance of collision in the foreseeable future. And even though Asteroid 2012 DA14 will fly 5,000 miles closer than satellites in geosynchronous orbit, NASA says its mostly south-to-north orbital path goes through a “sweet spot” that keeps it far away from those satellites — as well as from other spacecraft that are in closer orbits, including the International Space Station.
At its closest approach on Friday at 2:24 p.m. EST (1924 GMT), the asteroid will be 5,000 miles closer to Earth than the ring of GPS, weather and communications satellites in orbit around the planet. Still, the satellites and the planet are safe from impact, researchers say.
Based on a statistical analysis, NASA researchers have found that asteroids like 2012 DA14 only graze Earth this closely once every 40 years or so. Similar asteroids can actually hit the Earth once every 1,200 years.