Asteroid 2012 DA14: First Images of Space Rock Approaching Earth
Asteroid 2012 DA14 makes its closest approach to Earth at 2:25 p.m. ET Friday, and the world's astronomers have been on the lookout for it. Take a look at this sequence of images, sent by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory from the Faulkes Telescope South, in Siding Springs, Australia:
These pictures were taken when the asteroid was still about 465,000 miles away from us. Most of the dots in these very enlarged images are stars in the distant background; the asteroid stands out because it is moving in front of them. NASA says the animation was created by astronomers at the Remanzacco Observatory in Italy.
The asteroid is on a gently curving path that will take it from south to north, best seen Friday from Asia, Australia and parts of Europe. It will conveniently be passing over the night side of Earth (the Eastern hemisphere; the U.S. will be in daylight) when it's closest.
Bob Berman, an astronomer who writes a column for Astronomy magazine and also works with Slooh.com, a space website, said the asteroid will still be a dot, slightly too dim to be seen with the naked eye, when it comes closest - about 17,220 miles away - on Friday. Like most scientists, he's not worried about this one, though it's a useful reminder that the Earth does get hit by asteroids every now and then.
"But, hey," he said, "a miss is a miss."