Watch live: Asteroid to pass within 17,000 miles of earth

Posted at 12:16 PM, Feb 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-15 13:46:44-05

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Today’s meteor blast in Russia comes on the same day that a hefty asteroid is due to charge past Earth at a pretty close range, in space terms.

Known as 2012 DA14, the asteroid is thought to be 45 meters long, about half the length of a football field.

But scientists say it will come no closer than 17,100 miles from our planet’s surface.

“No Earth impact is possible,” according to Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Those in Eastern Europe, Asia or Australia will get the best telescope-aided view, scientists said. The asteroid won’t be visible to the naked eye.

NASA spokesman Steve Cole told CNN that scientists had determined that the Russian meteor was on a very different trajectory from the asteroid.

“They are completely unrelated objects — it’s a strange coincidence they are happening at the same time,” he said.

“This kind of object does fall fairly frequently, but when they fall into the ocean or desert, there is no impact on people — so this one is unusual in the sense that it’s come over a populated area.”

Cole said he wasn’t aware if scientists had foreseen the meteor’s entry into the atmosphere.

Because meteoroids are smaller than asteroids or comets, they are hard to spot and there is often little warning that they are heading toward Earth, he said.

Colin Stuart, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in London, said the asteroid’s flyby Friday was a chance for experts to get an unusually close-up look and learn more.

“Scientists are going to fire radar beams off of the asteroid, trying to get an idea what it’s made of and the how it’s moving, so that in the future, if there’s something that’s a bit more of a threat to us, we have the best knowledge of what we are dealing with,” Stuart said.

The asteroid, which is not connected to the Russian meteor, is not expected to hit any of the communications satellites it will pass on its trajectory, he said.