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A Near Miss: Fending Off Asteroids

A huge asteroid brushes by planet Earth Friday. Closer than our own satellites. We’ll look at our very close call, and asteroid defense.

This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013. The 150-foot object will pass within 17,000 miles of the Earth. NASA scientists insist there is absolutely no chance of a collision as it passes. (AP/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013. The 150-foot object will pass within 17,000 miles of the Earth. NASA scientists insist there is absolutely no chance of a collision as it passes. (AP/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Asteroid alert. And the first thing to say is, it’s not going to hit us.

Close, in astronomical terms. Very close. Closer than our own orbiting satellites. But the big chunk of rock hurtling by Earth tomorrow – big as a big high school gymnasium, big enough to take out a city if it hit – will pass 17,000 miles from Earth. A whisker in space terms.

The last time past it was a million and a half miles away. Asteroids can be lethal. Chicxulub took out the dinosaurs. Tunguska flattened Siberia. They may also be our path to the stars.

This hour, On Point: as a big one hurtles by, we’re looking at asteroids.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Edward Lu, former NASA astronaut and founder, chairman, and CEO of the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Earth from Asteroids. (@astroedlu)

J. Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor at Sky and Telescope magazine. (@nightskyguy)

From Tom’s Reading List

Slate (Phil Plait) “On Friday, Feb. 15, the Earth is going to get a very close shave by an asteroid. Called 2012 DA14, this 50 meter (160 foot) rock will pass just over 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) from the Earth’s surface. This is closer than our geosynchronous satellites, so this really is a close pass!”

Discovery News “The non-profit Space Data Association, which shares satellite-tracking information among its member organizations and companies, said it had looked at the asteroid’s projected flight path and determined none of the spacecraft monitored in its network would be impacted, chairman Ron Busch told Discovery News.”

MarketWatch “Scientists at Deep Space Industries have put a value on an asteroid set to buzz past Earth this week of $195 billion, according to a published report on Networkworld. The number comes from estimates of the value of any recoverable water on the asteroid — worth as much as $65 billion as fuel in space — plus the value of nickel, iron and other metals — worth as much as $130 billion as construction materials.”

NASA Video of DA14’s Close Call

Asteroid Gallery

How to Watch the Asteroid on Friday

Kelly Beatty’s Clay Center Observatory

NASA

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