On Friday February 15, 2013 at 19:25 UT, an asteroid that is half the size of a football field will pass within about 17,000 miles (27,000 km) of our planet.
How do we know about this potentially dangerous object?
We know this thanks to you. Your generous support, as a Member of The Planetary Society, helped make this discovery possible.
The giant space rock, dubbed 2012 DA14, was discovered by Shoemaker NEO (Near Earth Object) grant winner Jaime Nomen on February 22, 2012 by La Sagra Observatory in southern Spain. Through a Planetary Society grant, one of the telescopes was upgraded and equipped with a new camera that enabled it to detect a fast moving object like 2012 DA14 that required very fast imaging to be discovered and tracked. The upgraded instrument has far outperformed the Observatory’s other telescopes.
This asteroid should put humanity on alert to the importance of defending the Earth from future asteroid impacts. Big impacts don’t happen often, but they will happen. Fortunately, there is no danger of impact when asteroid 2012 DA14 flies by Earth next week.
Planetary Society Shoemaker grants are awarded to amateur observers, observers in developing countries, and professional astronomers who, with seed funding, can greatly increase their programs’ discoveries and contributions to NEO research.
You and I want to help humanity avoid the world’s only preventable natural disaster. Astronomers like those at La Sagra Observatory are critical to keeping us safe. Asteroid 2012 DA14’s discovery and next week’s close approach will provide us with a scientific and planetary defense treasure trove of data.