Asteroid to make close fly-by of Earth

Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:33 PM

PASADENA, Calif., Feb. 4 (UPI) -- A small asteroid approaching Earth will pass by so near it will come closer than the orbits of many weather and communications satellites, NASA says.

Although the near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass very close to Earth Feb. 15, observations obtained of its path show there is no chance it might be on a collision course, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported.

The asteroid's closest approach will put it 17,200 miles above the Earth's surface, closer than some distant geosynchronous satellites but still be well above the vast majority of satellites, including the International Space Station, JPL said.

Astronomers say that based on its brightness the asteroid, only discovered in February 2012, is about 150 feet in diameter.

At the time of its discovery it had just made a fairly distant passage by Earth, at about seven times the distance of the moon, they said.

With an orbital period around the sun of about 368 days, which is very similar to Earth's, 2012 DA14 has made a series of annual close approaches.

The Feb. 15 flyby will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close, JPL said.

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