The night of the 15th of February, the asteroid 2012 DA14 broke the record of the closest approach any asteroid has had with the planet Earth. It came closer than many of the satellites set by humans.
This object is known to be half the size of a football field, 45m approximately, becoming also the largest object that moves so close to the Earth and its atmosphere. Its composition is yet unknown, but scientists at NASA are trying to find out based on pictures taken during its orbit next to our planet.
Its closeness and its size have caused many scientists to consider the idea of it colliding with our planet. An object that size would not extinct the human race, but it would cause several natural disasters and could flatten loads of kilometers of trees. Luckily for us, astronomers have found the asteroid won’t come that near to us, and will continue its path without disturbing us in the future.
Because of the Earth’s gravity, the celestial object changed its orbit significantly, making it’s return to our planet take more time. Still, its next
visit will be in 2046, another 15 of February. But the next time, it won’t be coming that close to the Earth. It’s orbit will be separated from us in a
distance of one million miles, which is four time the distance between the Earth and the moon.
Such sight was visible to everyone using binoculars between 19:00 and 23:00 hours, due to its size and its proximity.
This asteroid in particular is particularly important for me, because it was discovered a year ago in a project lead by the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca, where I come from.
This laboratory, although small, is one of the most efficient observatories in the world when detecting asteroids. It is only surpassed by the NASA laboratory in this topic.