Asteroid Buzzes, Misses Earth - New York News

Asteroid Buzzes, Misses Earth

Posted: Updated:
AP Image AP Image

A 150-foot asteroid hurtled through Earth's backyard Friday, coming within an incredible 17,150 miles and making the closest known flyby for a rock of its size. In a chilling coincidence, a meteor exploded above Russia's Ural Mountains just hours before the asteroid zoomed past the planet.

Scientists the world over, along with NASA, insisted the meteor had nothing to do with the asteroid since they appeared to be traveling in opposite directions. The asteroid is a much more immense object and delighted astronomers in Australia and elsewhere who watched it zip harmlessly through a clear night sky.

"It's on its way out," reported Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object program at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Asteroid 2012 DA14, as it's called, came closer to Earth than many communication and weather satellites orbiting 22,300 miles up. Scientists insisted these, too, would be spared, and they were right.

The asteroid was too small to see with the naked eye even at its closest approach around 2:25 p.m. EST, over the Indian Ocean near Sumatra.

The best viewing locations, with binoculars and telescopes, were in Asia, Australia and eastern Europe. Even there, all anyone could see was a pinpoint of light as the asteroid buzzed by at 17,400 mph.

As asteroids go, this one 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 ever struck given its 143,000-ton heft, releasing the energy equivalent of 2.4 million tons of TNT and wiping out 750 square miles.

By comparison, NASA estimated that the meteor that exploded over Russia was much smaller -- about 49 feet wide and 7,000 tons before it hit the atmosphere, or one-third the size of the passing asteroid.

As for the back-to-back events, "this is indeed very rare and it is historic," said Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science. While the asteroid is about half the length of a football field, the exploding meteor "is probably about on the 15-yard line," he said.

"Now that's pretty big. That's typically a couple times bigger than the normal influx of meteorites that create these fireballs," he said in an interview on NASA TV.

"These fireballs happen about once a day or so, but we just don't see them because many of them fall over the ocean or in remote areas. This one was an exception."

As the countdown for the asteroid's close approach entered the final hours, NASA noted that the path of the meteor appeared to be quite different than that of the asteroid, making the two objects "completely unrelated." The meteor seemed to be traveling from north to south, while the asteroid passed from south to north -- in the opposite direction.

Most of the solar system's asteroids are situated in a belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and remain stable there for billions of years. Some occasionally pop out, though, into Earth's neighborhood.

NASA scientists 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.

The flyby provides a rare learning opportunity for scientists eager to keep future asteroids at bay -- and a prime-time advertisement for those anxious to step up preventive measures.

Friday's meteor further strengthened the asteroid-alert message.

"We are in a shooting gallery and this is graphic evidence of it," said former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart, chairman emeritus of the B612 Foundation, committed to protecting Earth from dangerous asteroids.

Schweickart noted that 500,000 to 1 million sizable near-Earth objects -- asteroids or comets -- are out there. Yet less than 1 percent -- fewer than 10,000 -- have been inventoried.

Humanity has to do better, he said. The foundation is working to build and launch an infrared space telescope to find and track threatening asteroids.

If a killer asteroid was, indeed, incoming, a spacecraft could, in theory, be launched to nudge the asteroid out of Earth's way, changing its speed and the point of intersection. A second spacecraft would make a slight alteration in the path of the asteroid and ensure it never intersects with the planet again, Schweickart said.

Asteroid DA14 -- discovered by Spanish astronomers only last February -- is "such a close call" that it is a "celestial torpedo across the bow of spaceship Earth," Schweickart said in a phone interview Thursday.

NASA's deep-space antenna in California's Mojave Desert was ready to collect radar images, but not until eight hours after the closest approach given the United States' poor positioning for the big event.

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.
  

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Police: Boater Disappearance May Have Been Staged

    Police: Boater Disappearance May Have Been Staged

    Friday, August 1 2014 6:28 PM EDT2014-08-01 22:28:19 GMT
    Egg Harbor Township Police believe the disappearance of a boater in July may have been staged.
    Egg Harbor Township Police believe the disappearance of a boater in July may have been staged.
  • New Video Game Sparks Debate In South Jersey

    New Video Game Sparks Debate In South Jersey

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:30 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:30:49 GMT
    Video games may be pure fantasy, but a violent action-adventure game called "Watch Dogs" has ignited a very real debate in one South Jersey community. Watch Dog allows players to adopt the persona of a James Bond-like computer hacker, chasing an evil mastermind. People say it's chock-full of foul language, sex and violence, features dark and foreboding backdrops. The latest version, which is due out this fall may be set in Camden.
    Video games may be pure fantasy, but a violent action-adventure game called "Watch Dogs" has ignited a very real debate in one South Jersey community. Watch Dog allows players to adopt the persona of a James Bond-like computer hacker, chasing an evil mastermind. People say it's chock-full of foul language, sex and violence, features dark and foreboding backdrops. The latest version, which is due out this fall may be set in Camden.

  • SOGGY WEEKEND

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:24 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:24:23 GMT

    Saturday will start off unsettled, especially S&E, but towards the afternoon most of us should remain drier with light scattered showers.

    Saturday (79/68): AM Rain, PM Clouds

    Weekend, clouds will stick around throughout Saturday and Sunday as wet weather dampens the first weekend in August. Saturday will start off unsettled, especially S&E, but towards the afternoon most of us should remain drier with light scattered showers. There is a better chance for more widespread precipitation Sunday with on and off showers/thunderstorms possible.

    Saturday (79/68): AM Rain PM Clouds

    Sunday (81/68): Cloudy, Showers & T-Storms

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • 'Get on Up' and James Brown's Harlem legacy

    'Get on Up' and James Brown's Harlem legacy

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:55 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:55:13 GMT
    "Get on Up" is in theaters now. The film chronicles the career of James Brown, who had a special connection to Harlem and New York. Billy Mitchell is the in-house historian at the historic Apollo Theater. He says the Apollo was a second home to Brown, as it was here where he became an international superstar who appealed to all. But Brown's NYC legacy stretches even further.
    "Get on Up" is in theaters now. The film chronicles the career of James Brown, who had a special connection to Harlem and New York. Billy Mitchell is the in-house historian at the historic Apollo Theater. He says the Apollo was a second home to Brown, as it was here where he became an international superstar who appealed to all. But Brown's NYC legacy stretches even further.
  • Dog found in abandoned home cleaned up and adopted

    Dog found in abandoned home cleaned up and adopted

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:51 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:51:00 GMT
    A 6-year-old Shih Tzu mix that was found in an abandoned home in Lindenhurst two weeks ago now has a new home with a new family. Ziggy has been has been cleaned up and has undergone physical therapy. Babylon town employees took three and a half hours to remove nearly four pounds of matted hair after they found him. Ziggy's fur was so matted and his nails so overgrown that he could barely walk.
    A 6-year-old Shih Tzu mix that was found in an abandoned home in Lindenhurst two weeks ago now has a new home with a new family. Ziggy has been has been cleaned up and has undergone physical therapy. Babylon town employees took three and a half hours to remove nearly four pounds of matted hair after they found him. Ziggy's fur was so matted and his nails so overgrown that he could barely walk.
  • Massive emergency drill in New York City

    Massive emergency drill in New York City

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:14 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:14:45 GMT
    The New York City Department of Health conducted a massive emergency preparedness drill at 30 facilities across the city on Friday. They tested the delivery of emergency medications in the event of a biological attack, such as anthrax, or other large-scale public health emergency in the city. The majority of the deliveries will take place to public school buildings.
    The New York City Department of Health conducted a massive emergency preparedness drill at 30 facilities across the city on Friday. They tested the delivery of emergency medications in the event of a biological attack, such as anthrax, or other large-scale public health emergency in the city. The majority of the deliveries will take place to public school buildings.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices