Asteroid to make close Earth visit

March 15, 2012 at 3:36 PM
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PARIS, March 15 (UPI) -- An asteroid approaching Earth in 2013 will get closer than the orbits of many satellites, highlighting a need to monitor such hazards, European scientists say.

An amateur team discovered the unusual asteroid, dubbed 2012 DA14, Feb. 22 as it flew by Earth at about seven times the distance of the moon, the European Space Agency reported Thursday.

However, on its next flyby, Feb. 15, 2013, it is predicted to pass Earth at less than 15,000 miles, closer than many commercial satellites, the ESA said.

"This is a safe distance, but it is still close enough to make the asteroid visible in normal binoculars," Detlef Koschny of the ESA's Space Situational Awareness office said.

While an impact with Earth has been ruled out as a possibility on the asteroid's next fly-by, astronomers will use its near approach for additional study and to calculate the gravitational effects on it of Earth and the moon.

"We will also be keen to see the asteroid's resulting orbit after the next close approach in order to compute any future risk of impact," Koschny said.

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