Bangalore, Feb 4: Within hours of lovers across the world declaring undying affection for each other on the occasion of Valentine's Day, an asteroid that is around 45 m in diameter will whizz by the Earth.
The asteroid called 2012 DA14 will be just 27,680 kms away from the Earth's surface when it streaks across the sky at the rate of one degree per minute. According to astronomers, there is no need to worry as the asteroid's orbit is "known well enough to rule out an impact."
It is named 2012 DA14 as the asteroid was first spotted from a Spanish observatory on Feb 23, 2012. Days later, it flew past the Earth but the distance then was about 1.6 million km.
This time, 2012 DA14 will pass below the orbit of geosynchronous satellites but the chances of the asteroid hitting even one of these satellites are very small.
All those Indians who wish to watch the rare spectacle will have
to stay up on the intervening night of Feb 15/16. The asteroid will
be visible as it races along at 17,400 miles per hour around 12.55
a.m and can be glimpsed through a telescope.
The current orbital period of 2012 DA14 is 366 days. However, the close shave scheduled to happen in less than a fortnight is expected to reduce the figure to 317 days.
The massive rock that is believed to be made of stone will again approach the Earth on Feb 16, 2046. And a repeat is slated for Feb 16, 2110.
Though celestial objects of the size of 2012 DA14 pass by the Earth every 40 years or so, collisions with the third planet from the Sun fortunately take place only once in 1200 years.
The most devastating impact in recent history was a meteor exploding as it entered the atmosphere and consequently levelling acres of forest near the Tunguska River in Siberia on Jun 30, 1908.