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150-foot wide asteroid to pass close by Earth today at 2:24pm EST/1924 GMT; communications satellites likely safe

“A newly discovered asteroid about half the size of a football field will pass nearer to Earth than any other known object of its size on Friday, giving scientists a rare opportunity for close-up observations without launching a probe,” Irene Klotz reports for Reuters. “At its closest approach, which will occur at 2:24 p.m. EST/1924 GMT, the asteroid will pass about 17,200 miles (27,520 km) above the planet traveling at 8 miles (13 km) per second, bringing it nearer than the networks of television and weather satellites that ring the planet.”

“Although Asteroid 2012 DA14 is the largest known object of its size to pass this close, scientists say there is no chance of an impact, this week or in the foreseeable future,” Klotz reports. “The non-profit Space Data Association, which tracks satellites for potential collisions, analyzed the asteroid’s projected path and determined no spacecraft would be in its way. ‘There is no reason to believe that this asteroid poses a threat to any satellites in Earth orbit,’ Space Data operations manager T.S. Kelso said in a statement.”

Klotz reports, “Even in areas that will be dark during DA14′s pass by Earth, the asteroid is too dim to be spotted without a telescope or binoculars. NASA plans a half-hour broadcast beginning at 2 p.m. EST/1900 GMT on NASA Television and on its website which will include near real-time views of the asteroid from observatories in Australia, weather permitting. The space camera, Slooh.com, will incorporate several live feeds, including views from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, in a webcast beginning Friday at 9 p.m. EST/0200 GMT. “

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Asteroids

The Associated Press reports, “Scientists at NASA’s Near-Earth Object program at California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory estimate that an object of this size makes a close approach like this every 40 years. The likelihood of a strike is every 1,200 years. Asteroid 2012 DA14, as it’s called, is too small to see with the naked eye even at its closest approach around 1925 GMT, over the Indian Ocean near Sumatra.”

“The best viewing locations, with binoculars and telescopes, are in Asia, Australia and eastern Europe. Even there, all anyone can see is a pinpoint of light as the asteroid zooms by at 17,400 mph,” AP reports. “As asteroids go, DA14 is a shrimp. The one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was 6 miles across. But this rock could still do immense damage if it struck, releasing the energy equivalent of 2.4 million tons of TNT and wiping out 750 square miles.”

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“Will the asteroid affect cell-phone service?” Elizabeth Landau asks for CNN.

“According to current modeling of the asteroid’s path, it will probably not affect the satellites,” Landau reports. “These satellites include those used by television networks, cell phone services and weather services. ‘Scientists have determined that it is very unlikely – but not impossible – that television signals, any other form of communication, or any weather data will be impacted by the asteroid,’ CNN meteorologist Sean Morris said.”

Landau reports, “As for global positioning satellites, which communicate with the GPS function on smartphones, the asteroid will pass about 5,000 miles above them and probably won’t interfere with navigational systems.”

Read more in the full article here.

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