An asteroid the size of a small office block is due to pass by Earth on Friday 15 February in one of the closest ‘near-misses’ in recent history. Although there is no chance of the asteroid hitting Earth, the huge rock is being closely monitored by astronomers at the University of Hertfordshire’s Bayfordbury Observatory, as part of an on-going programme to monitor ‘Near Earth Objects’ (NEO).
Weighing 130,000 tonnes and travelling at over 28,000 miles per hour, the asteroid, officially named 2012DA14, will pass in-between Earth and its communication satellites such as Sky’s Astra satellite. Astronomers Dr Mark Gallaway and David Campbell are using high-powered telescopes to track its movements.
Mark said: “Although there is absolutely no chance of this particular asteroid hitting Earth, it does highlight the dangers of so called ‘Near Earth Objects’ of which about ten thousand of the expected one million have been identified.
“By monitoring its movements we will be able to improve our understanding of these potentially hazardous objects.”
Too faint to see with the naked eye, the asteroid, which will pass closest to Australia, will be visible through binoculars and located with the help of the University’s ‘finder chart’ at approximately 8pm.
For more information on the research undertaken by Bayfordbury Observatory, visit http://bayfordbury.herts.ac.uk/research-at-bayfordbury-observatory.htm
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