Asteroid 'DA14' to pass very close to Earth next week

It weighs 150 tons and is about the size of your nearest Target store. It's about to slice through space between Earth and the orbit of our satellites.

We're talking about Asteroid DA 14, which will make one of the closest passes to Earth ever observed by modern science. DA 14 will skirt by Earth at a mere 17,200 away on Thursday, Feb. 15. The small piece of space rock is about 40 meters wide or about half the size of a football field.

So, is Earth in any danger of a collision? According to scientists, the answer is no.

"NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office can accurately predict the asteroid's path with the observations obtained, and it is therefore known that there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with Earth," officials at the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., wrote in a statement last Friday.

DA 14 was discovered in February 2012 and its behavior has been monitored closely ever since. According to Space.com, Asteroid DA will be just 1/13th as far from Earth as the moon is on Feb. 15. It will speed by at a dizzying 17,400 mph. The asteroid won't be this close to our planet again for at least another 30 years.

Scientists are very excited about the February encounter. The flyby creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids. As for the average sky watchers, DA 14 will be visible to telescopes in Eastern  Europe, Asia and Australia.

Just for conversation, what would happen if DA 14 would hit Earth? Scientists say damage on a local scale would be considerable. It would be similar to the asteroid that exploded over Russia back in 1908. That blast destroyed the forests over an 800-square mile area near Tunguska River, Siberia.

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