DA14: A Wake Up Call from Space

On February 15th, the people of planet Earth will receive a wake-up call from our Solar System.  Asteroid 2012 DA14, discovered just 1 year ago, will narrowly miss hitting the Earth by only 17 thousand miles.  That is about the distance the Earth travels in just 15 minutes, so this truly is a close shave.  In fact, 2012 DA14 will pass underneath our communications satellites as it flies by Earth!


Image: NASA

Image: NASA

This particular asteroid is not large, only about 160 feet across or roughly the size of an office building, and is not going to hit us on February 15th anyhow.  But consider that just 105 years ago, an asteroid slightly smaller than this struck Earth in Siberia near Tunguska, and completely flattened a forested area of 1000 square miles, which is larger than metropolitan New York City or Washington DC!

tunguska

1000 square miles of trees blown over like matchsticks!

The area of destruction at Tunguska compared to some large cities (from http://www.astro.virginia.edu/class/oconnell/astr121/guide22.html )

The area of destruction at Tunguska compared to some large cities (from http://www.astro.virginia.edu/class/oconnell/astr121/guide22.html )

2012 DA14 is what is known as a Near Earth Asteroid because its orbit crosses Earth’s orbit, and it may therefore someday run into Earth.  Of the million asteroids as large as or larger than 2012 DA14, we have only tracked less than 10,000.  So the fact that we knew ahead of time that 2012 DA14 is about to buzz by Earth is really only a matter of luck.  Ninety nine percent of the time we are oblivious, simply because we have not mapped and tracked 99 percent of Near Earth Asteroids.

Now consider the fact that we can actually deflect an asteroid from hitting Earth (which by the way is enormously easier than capturing an asteroid or for that matter mining one), and it seems crazy that we haven’t yet mapped these million asteroids that threaten Earth.

Shouldn’t we know in advance of the next asteroid impact, and actually prevent it?

***

Ed Lu is the Chairman & CEO of B612a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization started by a group of notable scientists to hunt asteroids that could hit the Earth and potentially cause human devastation. Lu is a former NASA astronaut who flew three space missions including 6 months on the International Space Station.

Click here for B612's FAQ on 2012 DA14

Click here to learn more about B612.

Click here for Ed Lu's TEDxMarin talk on the threats posed by Near Earth asteroids.

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