05 Mar 2012

NASA's data shows a 60-meter asteroid, spotted by a few Spanish stargazers in February, will pass earth at a distance under 27,000 km (16,700 miles), closer than the distance of many geosynchronous satellites. 

There is a small chance it may actually collide with Earth, but more calculations are needed to determine this, as well as calculate ways to avert the disaster.

NASA expert Dr. David Dunham told students at Moscow's University of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM), stated:

"The Earth’s gravitational field will alter the asteroid’s path significantly. Further scrupulous calculation is required to estimate the threat of collision, The asteroid may break into dozens of small pieces, or several large lumps may split from it and burn up in the atmosphere.  The type of the asteroid and its mineral structure can be determined by spectral analysis. This will help predict its behavior in the atmosphere and what should be done to prevent the potential threat."

If the asteroid were to collide with the Earth, it would unleash energy that is equivalent to that of a thermo-nuclear bomb.

The odds of impact are extremely low according to one astronomer, however.  U.S. astronomer Phil Plait, says:

"The odds of an impact are so low they are essentially zero. This does not rule out an impact at some future date, but for now we’re safe."

So, if the rock would threaten Earth, what methods could be used to avoid impact?

Blast it

One method is that of blasting it.

A spaceship could be used to shoot it down or crash into, breaking it up or changing its trajectory.

This may work in this case, because the rock is small enough, but under most circumstances, this could create a bigger problem as more fragments rain down on Earth causing widespread destruction.

Paint it

Another is that of paint.  Paint would affect the rocks ability to absorb sunlight and change its temperature, thus altering its spin.  The asteroid would then change course, or make it more dangerous on a return pass in 2056, according to Aleksandr Devaytkin, the head of an observatory in Russia's Pulkovo.

In either case, building a spaceship to divert 2012 DA14 will take two years, minimally.

There is hope that if it enters the atmosphere it may split into smaller parts, never reaching the surface, though if it does reach the surface it will be as big as the impact at Tunguska in 1908, which leveled about 830 square miles in Siberia.

Sources:  spyghana.com, discovermagazine.com, rt.com, Alamy(image)

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