While you were working: An asteroid just flew by
February 15th, 2013
05:08 PM ET

While you were working: An asteroid just flew by

It came closer ... closer ... and then it started heading away. But you may not have noticed at all.

An asteroid passed relatively close to Earth around 2:24 p.m. ET Friday. As scientists had been predicting all week, it did not hit.

A different and unrelated meteor exploded over Russia Friday, hours before the much larger asteroid's fly-by, injuring about 1,000 people. Scientists say this was a pure coincidence.

By contrast, the asteroid, called 2012 DA14 never got closer than 17,100 miles to our planet's surface.


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Filed under: In Space
The Science Seat: Why asteroids don’t surprise us anymore
Don Yeomans studies asteroids at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
February 15th, 2013
04:38 PM ET

The Science Seat: Why asteroids don’t surprise us anymore

By Matthew Rehbein, CNN

A lot of scientists dream of making a discovery that will make an impact. Planetary scientist Don Yeomans is not one of them.

Yeomans manages the Near-Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which means he spends his days monitoring the thousands of asteroids and comets swirling around the solar system, making sure that none of the bigger ones are on a collision course with Earth. He and his team play a “Men in Black” type of role, constantly finding, assessing and ruling out threats to the planet from outer space.

The importance of Yeomans’ work was especially in the spotlight Friday, when an asteroid about half the length of a football field passed relatively close to Earth - closer than many of our orbiting communications satellites - going roughly eight times as fast as a speeding bullet.

Yeomans and his team were among those who helped forecast this event. He assured us that it would not hit, and it looks like he was right.

CNN Light Years recently spoke with him about his work and how it might impact - not literally - humankind’s efforts in space in the future. Below is an edited transcript of this interview, conducted via e-mail.


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Filed under: In Space • Science Seat
February 15th, 2013
04:17 PM ET

A chance to prevent future asteroid impacts

Editor’s Note: Ed Lu is an explorer who loves mapping the unknown – whether it’s the oceans at Liquid Robotics, our neighborhoods, leading Google Advanced Projects Teams, or unveiling the secrets of the inner solar system and saving the world with the B612 Foundation, where he serves as CEO. A NASA Astronaut, he’s flown three missions, logging 206 days in space to construct and live aboard the International Space Station. Watch Ed Lu’s full plan to save the world, this Sunday 2:30 P.M. E.T. on “The Next List”

By Ed Lu, Special to CNN

Today's meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk is a reminder that the Earth orbits the Sun in a shooting gallery of asteroids, and that these asteroids sometimes hit the Earth.  Later today, a separate and larger asteroid, 2012 DA14, will narrowly miss the Earth passing beneath the orbits of our communications satellites.  We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but we cannot do anything about the objects we don't know exist.

Discovered just one year ago by an amateur citizen observer, 2012 DA14 will fly only 17 thousand miles above Earth – the distance the Earth travels in just 15 minutes, and not much longer than many people travel on common air flights. So this truly is a close shave. In fact, 2012 DA14 will pass underneath our communications satellites as it flies by Earth.

FULL STORY on CNN's What's Next

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Live Blog: Asteroid 2012 DA14 approaches Earth
February 15th, 2013
01:42 PM ET

Live Blog: Asteroid 2012 DA14 approaches Earth

It's not going to crash here, but it's still exciting! An asteroid made its closest pass by Earth at around 2:24 p.m. ET, flying about 17,200 miles above Earth’s surface. It’s estimated to be about 150 feet (45 meters) across with an estimated mass of 130,000 metric tons.

The flyby was the closest ever predicted for an object this large, according to NASA.  The asteroid, called 2012 DA14, flew between Earth and the satellites that ring the planet 22,200 miles up.

Scientists think there may be 500,000 asteroids the size of 2012 DA14, but fewer than 1% have been located.

NASA says the asteroid is entirely unrelated to the meteor that exploded over Russia Friday.

Check back for live updates beginning at 2 p.m.

2:27 p.m. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will continue to stream images at http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2. More information is available at http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidflyby.

2:25 p.m. We survived! The asteroid has passed its closest approach, and is now heading away from Earth.

2:24 p.m. Paul Chodas is back. He says the orbit will shrink a little. It could make a close approach again in the year 2046. We can predict its path through most of the 21st century, he says.

2:20 p.m. Lance Benner from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory talks about the Goldstone Solar System Radar, which is useful in measuring the size, shape, rotation state. Scientists want to better understand its motion.

The asteroid appears to rotate about once every six hours, he says. "It's conceivable that it could be somewhat larger or smaller" than the estimate of 150 feet. He'll be heading out in about an hour to get more data about this space rock.

2:14 p.m. A visualization tool called Eyes on the Solar System uses data on DA14 to track the asteroid in real time. You can visit this website to look around the entire solar system in an interactive way, including the asteroid.

2:10 p.m. Talking about the Russian meteor: The two events are unrelated. "It's simply a coincidence" that they happened to come near the Earth on the same day.

An amateur group in Spain spotted the 2012 DA14 asteroid. NASA-funded surveys have found 95% of near-Earth objects.

The Gingin observatory is observing the streaking of the asteroid. It's amazing how bright the asteroid is on its approach, says Paul Chodas of the Near Earth Object team. The reason it streaks: It moves during the time exposure of the telescope, he says.

Auriol Heary at the Gingin Observatory in Australia says there are very clear skies. "The Milky Way is so clear you can almost touch it."

2:04 p.m. If you're in Eastern Europe, Asia or Australia, you could see this object with binoculars or a telescope, says NASA's Don Yeomans, who gave CNN a Science Seat interview this week.

2 p.m. NASA says we know the closest approach of this asteroid will be about 2:25 p.m., but "closest approach" takes hours. From that point on, it will be flying away from the planet. NASA is showing images, both from hobbyists in Australia.

The Gingin Observatory, near the town of Perth, Australia, on the Western side, is capturing a great view of the asteroid moving.

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Filed under: In Space
February 15th, 2013
10:35 AM ET

5 things about Friday's space events

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

About 1,000 people have been injured in Russia as the result of a meteor exploding in the air. The energy of the detonation appears to be equivalent to about 300 kilotons of TNT, said Margaret Campbell-Brown of the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario.

Meanwhile, an asteroid approached Earth but did not hit it Friday, coming closest at about 2:25 p.m. ET.

You probably have some questions about both of those events, so here's a brief overview:


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