On the 15th of February a big lump of rock will pass extremely close to the Earth.
So close in fact that it will come closer in than the geosynchronous satellites.
Now that’s close!
Asteroid 2012 DA14 was discovered in February 2012 and is about 45 meters in diameter and will pass close to the Earth at a distance of only 13,870 miles.
THERE IS NO CHANCE OF IT HITTING THE EARTH!
Moving northwards it starts the evening too far south for us to see. It will be at its closest to Earth at about 18:00h on the 15th of February, when it will be too far south for us to see in the UK. For those further south who will be able to view it will probably disappear into the Earth’s shadow for about 18 minutes, 4 minutes after its closest approach.
At this time it should be at about magnitude 7.4 and at its closest the the Earth. So although it won’t be visible to the naked eye (just), it should be easily visible in binoculars or a small telescope as a fairly bright “star” moving northwards through the background stars.
For those further south who will be able to view it will probably disappear into the Earth’s shadow for about 18 minutes, 4 minutes after its closest approach.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THIS PASS.
Unfortunately my prediction software failed to take account of the gravitational effect of the Earth on the objects orbit as it passed the Earth. My prediction published here previously was about 2 hours behind.
I have now run an ephemeris using the HORIZONS Web site for my location in mid UK:
The asteroid rises just after 19:50h that evening with an apparent magnitude of 7.59.
Heading quickly north, it passes to the east of Denebola in the tail of Leo at around 20:00h, by this time it has faded to 8th magnitude.
By 20:20 it will be passing through or very close to Melotte 111, the star cluster in Coma Berenices.
At 21:00h it will have faded to magnitude 8.6 and be located in Canes Venatici and still heading swiftly north.
It will cross through the handle of The Plough around 21:32h, now just below 9th magnitude.
Thankfully the BAA Minor planets section has produced a prediction based on a location on the south coast of the UK and produced two very fine finder charts for that evening.
Below are their images of the predicted path that evening: