New Delhi: Asteroid 2012 DA14 came closest to Earth on Saturday at 12.55 am (IST) in south-north direction above Earth.
Its flight path was inside the geosynchronous orbit – closer than many telecommunication satellites. DA14 is the largest known object of its size to have passed this close, within 27,700 kilometers (17,000 miles) above the Earth.
The distance may seem large but considering the light year distances between planets and other stellar objects, 35,000 km is too close in astronomical terms.
The flyby gave sky watchers an opportunity to witness to the closest pass of an interplanetary visitor. At its closest approach, it was best visible over Indonesia. However people from other parts of Asia, Australia and Eastern Europe also get a chance to glimpse it on its way past.
The next asteroid to break into the ring of geostationary satellites will be Apophis, which will pass through at a distance of 19,400 miles on April 13, 2029.
Asteroid 2014 DA14 will itself return to Earth’s periphery in 2046, again on February 15, when it will flyby at a distance of a million miles.
The asteroid is a fairly typical near-Earth asteroid. It measures some 50 metres wide, neither very large nor very small, and is probably made of stone, as opposed to metal or ice.
As per an estimate, such asteroids fly past Earth, on average, every 40 years, yet actually strikes our planet only every 1200 years or so.
In 1908, something about the size of 2012 DA14 exploded in the atmosphere above Siberia, levelling hundreds of square miles of forest.
Astronomers have detected some 9,500 celestial bodies of various sizes that pass near Earth, but they estimate that`s only a tenth of what`s out there.
(With Agency inputs)