March 9, 2013
Asteroid To Fly Past Earth Today
Knowledge is only power if you have enough time to react to the information you just learned.
In what seems to be an almost daily occurrence, we have learned another asteroid is swinging through our neighborhood this weekend. Unlike the events that happened over the skies of southwestern Russia and Cuba, however, this asteroid will travel just outside our planet’s atmosphere.
Scientists weren’t able to see the asteroid until just this past Sunday because the search telescopes we currently use can’t detect objects of this size until they get close.
Measuring about the size of a city block, the 80-meter wide asteroid will be at its closest point to our planet, some 604,500 miles, on Saturday afternoon. According to Don Yeomans, a planetary scientist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the celestial traveler will come within 2-1/2 times the distance from the Earth to the moon.
“It’s a pretty good size, but it’s not getting that close, at least by recent standards,” Yeomans said.
Amateur astronomers are already able to observe the asteroid, dubbed 2013ET, in the night sky. Experts advise you try to get your look at it now, however, as after Saturday’s fly-by, 2013ET will only appear in the daytime sky over the U.S.. The daylight hours will make it much more difficult to see.
Scientists arrived at the name 2013ET as that was the time of day it was discovered. This asteroid is just the latest object careening through space that will make near-contact with our planet.
The meteor that exploded over Russia last month was responsible for injuring more than 1,500 people. In addition to the asteroid that streaked through the skies above Cuba, there was also a far larger asteroid that had been in the news leading up to its close encounter with our planet. That larger asteroid was a mere 17,100 miles above the surface of the Earth.
In addition to this new discovery, we are expecting the comet Pan-STARRS to come into view as it travels through the skies above the Northern Hemisphere. Later on in the year, we will see another comet, called ISON, visible in our November skies. According to scientists, neither comet poses a direct threat to Earth.
Our ability to locate and monitor objects traveling through space has improved exponentially in the past few years. One has to wonder if we are just passing through an especially active area of space or if these dangers were always just out of sight. As for me, I long for the days when we were a bit more ignorant about these events.
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