London: An asteroid due to whizz past the Earth on Friday may not ‘destroy London’ - but it could take out vital telecommunications satellites, scientists have warned.
Though scientists are sure that there is no chance of the 150ft (45.7m) wide space rock hitting the Earth, they fear that it could collide with one of more than 100 telecommunication and weather satellites in fixed orbits above the Earth.
The asteroid, 2012 DA14, which was detected in February last year by La Sagra Observatory in southern Spain, is predicted to reach its nearest point to the Earth at around 7.30 pm UK time on Friday.
Experts have calculated that it will stay at least 17,200 miles (27,681km) away - easily far enough to be safe, but a very close shave in astronomical terms. Scientists have never observed such a narrow miss before.
But Dr Dan Brown, from Nottingham Trent University, said the asteroid could put telecommunication satellites - that ping data between our mobile phones - in danger.
Travelling at between 12,427mph (20,000kph) and 18,641mph (30,000kph) - around five miles (8km) a second, or eight times the speed of a rifle bullet - the asteroid will fly inside the orbits of high geostationary satellites some 22,000 miles (35,406km) above the Earth.
‘These are the satellites that provide us with telecommunications and weather forecasts, said Dr Brown.
DA14 belongs to dangerous family of near- Earth objects (NEOs) that are small enough to be missed but large enough to cause serious damage.
The asteroid will pose no danger to the International Space Station, which orbits at an altitude of only a few hundred kilometres.
During the flypast, scientists will use radar to study DA14 and learn about its composition and structure. The knowledge could prove useful if steps have to be taken to remove the threat of another space rock.