Humankind seems to revel in its end-of-the-world theories. Never mind the huge list of predicted apocalypses that never happened, it seems a never-ending capacity for ignorance and stupidity constantly drives people to believe this or that will destroy the Earth.
This time it’s DA14, an asteroid that will be passing by Earth on the 15th of February 2013. The asteroid is about 45 metres across (150 feet) and will be closer to Earth than our satellites in geostationary orbit. As close a shave as this sounds, there’s no real danger.
Unfortunately, a lot of the failed Mayan doomsday supporters are quick to jump on the next apocalypse hoax, claiming that the asteroid will impact the Earth. It will not.
The sun’s gravitational pull on the asteroid will limit its distance to 3.2 Earth radii, about 20,406 km. By comparison, satellites in geosynchronous orbit circle at around 35,800 km.
NASA has assured that it will not impact Earth, but DA14 will be added to a list of objects to watch as it will potentially return in 2020.
A lot of comparison has been made to the Tunguska event in 1908 in which a meteoroid exploded above the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Siberia, flattening about 2,000 km^2 of forest. Amazing and frightening as that is, let me remind you that first of all, Earth has a long history of being hit by asteroids so there’s nothing close to an apocalypse there, and second of all, this one won’t even hit.
Anyway, my job here is just to combat ignorance so hopefully those of you who read this will be able to scoff the next time someone says we’re going to be wiped out by DA14. For those of you that are stargazers, this will be a very interesting event to watch.