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A little too close for comfort? A near-Earth collision for 2013

Updated on March 29, 2012

This close is too close

Projected orbit of 2012 DA14 asteroid to Earth
Projected orbit of 2012 DA14 asteroid to Earth | Source

How close is too close?


Just how close is too close? Considering that satellites orbit at about 35,000 to 37,000 miles above the Earth, it seems that asteroid 2012 DA14 will be coming in at about 17,000 miles away. When you consider the moon is about 1/4 million miles away, so it's gravity will have no effect on the rather small asteroid, this will be the closest we have come to an extinction-event possibility since, well, the last extinction event that made oil fields and dinosaur museums possible.


End of times, or a cool light show?


If 2012 DA14 were to collide in or near a major city, that city would be wiped off of the face of the Earth. NYC, Mumbai, Tehran, Pyongyang, Ottawa, Los Angeles, South Bend or Seoul, no matter how big the city, with a perfect hit and minimal loss due to burn-off as the asteroid burns down through our last line of defense, the atmosphere, any city would be completely obliterated.

How close can they predict a collision if it were to happen?


They should be able to "pinpoint" the collision site to within a few million miles once the asteroid is about a few million miles away. At that distance, we would have about a 3 in 5 chance that satellites will be smashed, which could also alter the asteroid`s trajectory. On top of other factors that could change it`s course to make it smash into Earth, 2012 DA14 will be attracted to the Earth`s gravitational field. At a calculated width only 150 feet wide (give or take a few hundred feet), 2012 DA14 could easily be pulled into a collision.

Traveling at about 26,000 miles per hour, a speed which will increase as it is whip-lashed by other planets and moons on it's rapid attack on planet Earth, 2012 DA14, if it does collide with Earth, is expected to unleash the equivalent of a thermonuclear bomb. All Iran really has to do is find some way of controlling the exact point of impact by installing motors on the little rock and they would have control of more Hellfire than they ever imagined.

The problem is. not even the US, China, Japan. Canada and Russia could combine forces and build space vehicles quick enough that are big and powerful enough to race out far enough into space to push it off course enough if/when it does decide to collide. The idea would be to nudge the asteroid just enough so that it would avoid the Earth`s gravitational fields.

How close can they actually predict the asteroid will fly by?


Well, not that close. They (the scientists following it, NASA and a bunch of other initialed organizations) are predicting it will pass within 17,000 miles of the surface of the Earth. It happens to be over 300 days away from Earth, traveling at 26,000 miles an hour. That speed sees 2012 DA14 travel about 624,000 miles a day, making it about 200 million miles from us, give or take a few inches. That's like firing a powerful rifle in the air and predicting exactly where the bullet will land, within 2mm.


Mayans off by 3 Months?

Could this be the Mayan's prediction?
Could this be the Mayan's prediction? | Source


People will be able to see the asteroid with a decent pair of binoculars, but the view won't last long. However, if it does collide with out little blue planet, third from the Sun, then the after-effects will be felt for years and possibly decades. Major dirt and silt clouds will block out the Sun, and the resulting temperature drop could change climate change. Yes, glaciers could grow for a few ears, and the permafrost may even stop encroaching in humanity so rapidly.

With all of their predictions about speeds, orbital and gravitational forces and other factors that effect 2012 DA14's trajectory and speed, how can they predict any hits with other scattered meteors, asteroids and other heavenly ricks. Any celestial rock bigger than twice the size of 2012 DA14 will have some form of gravitational pull on this asteroid, so even at 300 days away they could change it's destination by thousands of miles a day for the next 300 days. Or, they could be dead on (pun intended!)

Could this be the Mayan prediction?


It well could. After all, if the Mayans figured that the asteroid would hit the planet at excessive speeds in late 2012, why bother making the calendar ever longer? But, why the time difference? The Mayans predicted a December, 2012 extinction event, and if that were 2012 DA14, the time difference could well be attributed to a bump or two with other celestial bodies.



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    • Marc Babineau profile image
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      Marc Babineau 5 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Nah, J-Lo will live on in an alien space ship - even aliens like pretty girls!

    • Marc Babineau profile image
      Author

      Marc Babineau 5 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Thanks for the visit, Natashalh! Sooner or later the odds state that we should be hit by one of the many rocks flying around in space, like the Triguska event just a few years back.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I understand your humour Marc and your jabs are well-placed. I do wonder though: if Earth is wiped out will JLo go with it??!!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      To be fair, people that are saying this is impossible, the very first news reports had scientists saying they thought a collision was very likely. Within a couple of days, they started scaling back the predictions, but that shows you just how unsure they are. And whether or not this one hits, eventually Earth will win the lottery, so to speak, and we need to devote more resources to figuring out what to do about it.

    • Marc Babineau profile image
      Author

      Marc Babineau 5 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Well, that's great to know, Scott! Thanks for clearing that up. As i said before, this is just a blog, not a scientific journal, and i am not a physicist, just a technical writer who is now disabled and unable to work, Let's hope it's not a repeat of the Triguska event, though, eh? They assured us that wouldn't hit us either...

    • scottcgruber profile image

      scottcgruber 5 years ago from USA

      Yes, I do believe they can predict the path of an asteroid 300 days away. They can predict the path of an asteroid like this one with pretty remarkable accuracy years and decades out, in fact. The 17,000 mile figure isn't where it is expected to pass - it is expected to pass about 38,000 miles away. 17,000 miles away is the close end the margin of error. The far end of the margin of error has it passing 120,000 miles away.

      It's pretty basic physics. From a few observations it is possible to plot the elliptical orbit of the asteroid, and from that determine not only where it will be in the future, but also its mass and approximate size. Right now we know that it is in a heliocentric orbit about the same size and shape as Earth's (366 days), and tilted 10 degrees to the plane of our orbit.

      This asteroid doesn't come near any other bodies than the Earth, and there are no black holes anywhere near us. So between now and next February it is a simple two-body orbit equation between 2012 DA14 and the Sun. We can state with certainty, using undergraduate-level physics, that it will not hit us next February.

    • Marc Babineau profile image
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      Marc Babineau 5 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      I know, and i write for fun, not for money, as most of my readers and followers (yes, i have some!) know. I was just peeved that they stated that the asteroid would pass by at 17,000 miles from Earth - that's a really precise prediction for something 300 days away from happening... that's all that was intended, and a few jabs at science (I also do jabs at religion, to be fair)

    • physics-boy profile image

      physics-boy 5 years ago from England

      I'm sorry but I agree with Scott. Astrophysicists can predict the path of an asteroid to within a tiny degree of uncertainty. It is not billions of miles away, It is within our Solar System, and it won't be affected by millions of celestial bodies. Any planets or other bodies in our Solar System it does encounter will have already been accounted for by NASA.

      I am a physicist, so please, if you didn't take heed of scott, take heed of me. There is little to no chance that this asteroid will hit Earth, and with the current paranoia about 2012, bad science like this will only make it worse.

      Not only that, but your hub is full of factual innaccuracies. please research before posting a hub, it will help your feedback no end.

      oh, and on a final note, and I'm sick of saying this, the Mayans predicted Nothing. not a damn thing. No End of the world, no asteroid, nothing.

    • Marc Babineau profile image
      Author

      Marc Babineau 5 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Thanks for the visit, and the great comment, Dave! Let's hope it's no more than a quick light show, eh?

    • Marc Babineau profile image
      Author

      Marc Babineau 5 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      What? You believe they can predict the path of an asteroid, over 300 days away, to within 17,000 miles? It is Billions of miles away, will be affected by millions of celestial bodies, black holes, etc - and get it right? Yeah, please!

      Thanks for the overly enlightening and supportive comment! Always appreciated!

    • scottcgruber profile image

      scottcgruber 5 years ago from USA

      Great job mixing a pinch of actual science with a punchbowl of woo and fearmongering. Why don't you throw in some more fake information, such as the fact that 2012 DA14 can cause earthquakes or give people cancer?

    • Davesworld profile image

      Davesworld 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      Earth got hit by one about that size a little over 100 years ago in Siberia. It wiped out hundreds of square miles of forest land and was felt in European cities. It's known as the Tnguska event. That time the collision was in a remote part of the planet, we won't necessarily be so lucky this time. Could be interesting, and there ain't a damn thing we can do about it but stand by and watch. Long term catastrophic events, maybe not so much, but then again it all depends on where it hits and if it hits us.

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