Saturday, February 16, 2013

Asteroid 2012 DA14 and the Russian Meteorite: A tale of two cosmic visitors

Earth witnessed two extremely rare cosmic events in one day yesterday. First a 17m wide meteorite exploded above Russian skies and injured 1,200 people! Watch the spectacular footage of the meteorite as it exploded. NASA says an event of this magnitude occurs once every 100 years on average.

Many hours later, the 45m wide Asteroid 2012 DA14 made its historic close flyby of Earth. At its closest approach, Asteroid DA14 was within 28,500 km of Earth’s surface above Sumatra, Indonesia. It was the closest known flyby for a rock of its size. That’s closer than some satellites that orbit the earth! Luckily for us, Asteroid DA14 did not hit Earth and has moved safely away. Video above shows the asteroid as a starlike dot 2 hours before closest approach moving very quickly in front of the stars. Here's a pic of me getting my telescope ready for the asteroid. Yes, the asteroid was visible in Singapore for those with binoculars and telescope and know where to look.

What these two cosmic events have showed us is that we are vulnerable to being hit by a rock from space. The Russian meteorite may have injured so many people but thankfully no one died. Asteroid DA14 may have flew very close to Earth but we did not get hit. We are safe... for now. But we WILL get hit one day. The question is when. And when it happens, are we prepared? We may not get so lucky next time.

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