Asteroid buzzes, misses Earth - unlike meteor

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.
Associated Press
Feb 15, 2013


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.




One of these days we are not going to be as lucky as we think. Seiberia won't be the target, We will. And then look out. The west got hit once and I fear the great lakes may be the next target or even the west again. God help us all if the eastern seaboard ever gets what Seiberia got this time.

Some day an astroid may just hit us anyway. By then, the collision will just end us all, but by that time, perhaps NASA will have figured out what to do. If the government spent as much time and money on Obamacare and other stupid things, they could surely find the money on near earth collisions we would be a lot better off. Seriously, NASA could use that money much more efficiently than much of what the Senate and House spent on supporting PAC issues like the last little stupid infringement and other dump things.

NASA really needs the funds. How dumb is our government anyway. Its a rhetorical question that needs no answer. We all know that answer anyhow. LOL

Licorice Schtick

Sooo... don't spend money one health care that provides certain, immediate, and measurable benefits; instead spend it figuring out how to stop an unstoppable asteroid impact that may or may not happen in the next 100,000 years.

Yeah, the government sure is dumb. LOL indeed.


Asteroid impacts aren't necessarily unstoppable. No, we can't blow a big one to smithereens (not a good idea anyway since we'd then be hit by a storm of smaller rocks). But a little nudge is all it would take to change the path just enough to miss the planet!

There are two issues here, and perhaps the MOST important one is we need to see the asteroid in time. Asteroids are very hard to see because they're not typically very reflective. You're trying to see a very dark object against a very dark background and, in comparison to the size of the sky needing watching, it's also a very small very dark object!

There are NASA programs that do watch the skies. There are quite literally thousands of so-called "earth grazers" that have been cataloged and their orbits calculated. There are doubtless plenty more that we haven't found yet.

I'd remind you, Licorice, that an individual illness doesn't mean species extinction. I'd also remind you that NASA has historically given an extraordinary return on investment (the numbers I've heard suggest NASA technologies and spin-offs of those developments give back about $7 for every $1 spent). And some of those investments have turned out to be very high end medical technology (not to mention all of the jobs that enabled more people to afford or be provided health insurance coverage).

Your short-sightedness (along with the fact that the government simply cannot — and SHOULD not — pay for everything for everybody) is a prime example of how it is we're trillions of dollars in debt with nothing to show for it except the very nasty financial precipice looming. Frankly, I'd rather the planet were hit by an asteroid. At least that'd be quick!


Your condescending reminders to the commenter above are unimpressive.

The National Safety Council estimates an American's chance of dying of from heart disease in a given year is one in 467, and of dying from an asteroid impact - less than one in 75,000,000. Stated another way, Americans are 160,000 time more likely to die from heart disease than an asteroid impact. So unless your dollar spent on diverting hurtling asteroids will be 160,000 more effective than my dollar spent on preventing heard disease, Congress should not follow your counsel.

Many folks are well aware that we already look for and track such objects, and that's cost-effective because it may in some cases be feasible to mitigate damages. But even devoting every possible resource on the planet exclusively to "prepping" for asteroid impacts would not assure a significant benefit in the way of safety, and the best way to describe the effect on the world economy? Think WWIII.

You've been watching too many Killer Asteroid movies. They're Science FICTION. MAYBE Humankind is capabable of responding effectively and in a timely manner to a tiny portion of the infinite scenarios presented by asteroid impacts. You want to dig a bunker? Go ahead and spend YOUR money. But what you advocate is especially looney coming from the "shrink government, stop waste" side.

Exhibit A - "Killer Asteroids and Comets in the Movies"


Please pay attention: I wasn't talking about an impact. You're right: There's virtually NOTHING that can be done to mitigate an impact, and with a hit by an object of sufficient size, we're toast. Bunker? Now YOU'RE being condescending. People in bunkers (depending on the location of the hit and just how big it REALLY is) won't survive much longer than anybody else.

I said there's a reasonable potential for DIVERTING such objects, assuming they're found early enough. If you change the trajectory by just a hair, but you do it at a sufficient distance, the difference can become significant over time. It's well worth pursuing when the alternative is extinction, don't you think? And yes, we already do look for and track such objects on a relatively limited basis. But as was said in one of those science fiction movies you enjoy disparaging, "It's one big a$$ sky, Mr. President!"

You also neglected to respond to anything having to do with jobs -- good ones, probably with benefits -- and technologies developed as a result (many of which have notoriously had medical applications and/or implications, including diagnoses and treatments, perhaps even preventions). All told, the investment remains relatively small while the potential return is almost unlimited even if none of the practical asteroid-related discoveries are never used

Meanwhile, medical research is done on a regular basis by private companies like medical device manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry. Hospitals also engage in a variety of research programs and studies as do various institutions. I don't suggest that they stop. I merely suggest that the government has bigger fish to fry, things which benefit even more people, true even if some worst case scenarios are unlikely at best.


LOL. An asteroid and meteor are the same object. As soon as it enters our atmosphere, we call it a meteor. It's not often that you see a title of an article that manages to accurately define two scientific terms. The Register rocks!!!


funny...suprised they didnt say it was from global warming that is causing the lower temps that steered the meteor towards us


Merely the "Bugs" testing our defense capabilities. :)

Buenos Aries is next.


On my Top Ten List of Best Science Fiction of All Time: #1 and #2 are Ender's Game and Dune. They sometimes switch places, but they don't go down any further than that!

When I saw the first preview for Ender's Game, I almost cried. If they do the book justice, it's going to be AMAZING! (Unlike, unfortunately, the attempts to adapt Dune for the big screen.)


@ SamAdams:

Lotsa great old SF novels, but unfortunately Hollywood likes the tried and true and recycles ones like "Total Recall."

Among others, I enjoyed Saberhagen's Berserker series, Silverberg's "Hawksbill Station,” Heinlein’s "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" as well as Turtledove's "Guns of the South."

"The Postman" was a REAL disappointment.


Ooops, you spoke too soon! Some bimbo on CNN actually asked her guest whether or not global warming might have drawn the asteroid toward earth. Seriously. I still have no idea how her guest kept a straight face when he told her that had nothing to do with it.


The register doesn't rock. All they did is cut and paste and AP story.


Actually coasterfan, you're only partially right. A meteoroid is a particle in space and size can range from a grain of sand to a boulder. Once it enters our atmosphere, it becomes a meteor. If the entire meteor doesn't burn up, and part of it actually survives landing, that piece of former meteor is knows as a meteorite.

Asteroids are considered larger than a meteoroid. Once an asteroid enters Earths atmosphere, then yes, it also would be considered a meteor.

And.... this article wasn't written by anyone at the Register. It's an AP story out of Florida. ;) The Register shouldn't get credit for an AP story!

Swamp Fox

The Obama administration has issued a statement blaming President Bush and immediately asked the rich to fund a defense against against any space object hitting the the earth. This is another example of the attack against the middle class and the need for Obamacare. He also indicated social security should allow for SSI payments for anyone scared of being hit be any space object. President Obama then issued an executive order appointing Darth Vader as Czar of "space things". Darth who played golf with the president announced he will take a long planned vacation before starting his new job. Michelle Obama objected, Darth Vader might have eaten hamburgers. The president appointed a committee to investigate these allegations who will report back to him hopefully before Armageddon. The mainstream media was unsure how to report, Vice President Biden will advise them after he returns from space cadet camp. Ex Seacarry of State Clinton who many claimed had prior knowledge refused to comment claiming a headache, her aide stated if that's good enough for Bill its good enough for the public. Carnival Cruise Line proposed donating one of their ships if the Federal Government gave them a green energy grant that would only aide the 99%, minus Republicans, Christians and gun owners.


Oh man.... that is a great comeback!

The Big Dog's back

To bad it didn't suck up all the right wingers went it went by.

Swamp Fox

bfrutie, good news, bad news for you. Good news, if an asteroid strikes the earth and Armageddon and the rapture occurs only the far left wackos will remain. Bad news, no one to support them........


Hah. Did you see the tongue-in-cheek blog entry that's gone viral about how somebody in Congress is proposing a law that limits asteroid sizes and numbers, and which would make some of them all together illegal if they LOOK scary enough?