Near-miss asteroid to zip past Earth

WASHINGTON — An asteroid half the size of a football field will dart between Earth and orbiting satellites next week, sparing the human race and putting on a show for sky gazers in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia, NASA said.

The 150-foot diameter asteroid, named 2012 DA14, will pass 17,000 miles above Earth on Feb. 15 — lower than the orbits of some satellites — in the closest known approach of an object of its size. It will travel on a north-to-south trajectory at 17,400 miles an hour, or about eight times the speed of a rifle shot, NASA scientists said Thursday.

“No Earth impact is possible,” Donald Yeomans, who manages the Near-Earth-Object office at Pasadena, Calif.- based Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press conference.

The NASA unit monitors relatively small space objects such as DA14 to measure the risks they present to the Earth. Researchers said the asteroid’s close trajectory will help NASA in preparing for an eventual encounter with a near-Earth object later this decade.

While a strike by an asteroid DA14’s size would do “a lot of regional destruction,” it wouldn’t be catastrophic to the planet’s population, said Lindley Johnson, program executive for NASA’s Near-Earth Object observations program in Washington.

Yeomans said the damage from DA14 if it were to hit would rival an impact event in Russia in 1908 that leveled trees over an 820-square-mile territory. The asteroid that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs was about 10-kilometers in diameter.

The NASA scientists said the asteroid would still pass above the orbits of most of the communications satellites circling Earth, and doesn’t pose a threat to the International Space Station, which moves above the planet at about 250 miles.

Amateur astronomers will need a small telescope to see the asteroid, which would appear as a moving pinpoint in the night sky, said Timothy Spahr, the director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass. The best viewing location for DA14’s closest approach is Indonesia, with sky gazers in Eastern Europe, Australia and Asia also getting good looks at the asteroid.

The NEO program office said that an object of similar size gets this close to Earth once every 40 years, and that an actual collision can be expected only once in 1,200 years.

Some companies and entrepreneurs are eying asteroids as possible sources for trillions of dollars in precious metals.

Planetary Resources Inc., based in Seattle and backed by Google Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt, are working to launch a telescopic space surveyor to identify resource-rich space rocks in the next couple of years.

More in Local News

Definitely not Christmas in July for parched young trees

“I live in Washington. I should not have to water a Christmas tree,” says one grower. But they did.

They chose the longshot candidate to fill a vacant seat

Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick will serve as representative for the 39th legislative district.

Whether cheers or jeers, DeVos appearance will rouse spirits

Trump’s secretary of education is coming to Bellevue to raise money for a pro-business think tank.

Self-defense or murder? Trial begins in shooting death

Explanations as to why a man was shot in the back on a Bothell cul-de-sac are starkly different.

Man arrested after allegedly threatening people near EvCC

The community college was briefly on lockdown Thursday morning.

Fugitive Watch

The state Department of Corrections’ Everett office has felony warrants… Continue reading

Front Porch

EVENTS Sk8 Fest returns to Arlington The Centennial Sk8 Festival celebrating longboards… Continue reading

Chief petty officer killed by sheriff’s deputy identified

Nicholas Klark Perkins had been stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island for about a year.

Army nurse from Everett has vivid memories of ‘forgotten war’

Barbara Jean Nichols, 95, served near the front lines in Korea and Vietnam, and in Germany.

Most Read