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Asteroid Heading Toward Earth May Come Too Close For Comfort

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—This Valentine’s Day, we won’t have to kiss ourselves goodbye.

An asteroid will come very close to the Earth on Feb. 15, but as Alex DeMetrick reports, the asteroid will not come close enough to hit.

It’s called 2012 DA-14, a not very scary name for a not very large asteroid.

It would only take up about half a football field. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in nearness.

Feb. 15, 2013 it will pass very close, just 17,200 miles from Earth.

That puts it inside the 22,000 mile orbit of communication satellites.

“So that’s close,” said Dr. James Garvin, Goddard Space Flight Center’s chief scientist.

A 150-foot wide asteroid is a drop in the cosmic bucket:

“That’s pretty small.  Much bigger ones have impacted the Earth in the last few million years.  And so this [is] normal for life in space,” Garvin said.

The last time a similar sized object hit was in Siberia in 1908.

It exploded on the way down with the force of a of couple hydrogen bombs, leveling 800 square miles of forest.

“That’s a fairly small event relative to the history of what’s happened to this planet,” said Iew James.

Not long after DA-14 was spotted, its orbit was calculated and double checked.

“Its orbit is very well known. We know exactly where it’s going to go, and it cannot hit the Earth,” said Don Yeomans, NASA Near Earth Objects.

Coming as close as it does, gives scientists a rare chance to study an asteroid.

“The possibility of understanding it as it comes so close, with the kind of telescopes and radio telescopes here on Earth, is a scientific bonanza,” Garvin said.

One that won’t come with a bang.

Scientists say the asteroid, which weighs 130,000 tons, has only a slim chance of hitting a communications satellite.

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