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If Asteroid 2012 DA14 Were To Impact Earth

by William W. on February 14, 2013
Science and Astronomy

collision

This Friday, February 15th 2013, an asteroid the size of the White House will fly by Earth, about 21,200 miles from the center-point of Earth and 17,200 miles (27,680 kilometers) above our planet.

In comparison 2012 DA14 is about a quarter of the size of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 which crashed into Jupiter in 1994. Shoemaker-Levy 9 made huge impacts on Jupiter, so much so that it created plumes thousands of kilometers high.

jupiter-shoemaker

2012 DA14 will pass close by Earth, so close that it will be in the region where satellites orbit. The asteroid is not expected to pass any closer than 1950 km from any satellites. The Earth is in no danger of an impact and no satellites will be harmed during it’s journey near Earth.

Please enter the url to a YouTube video.

If asteroid 2012 DA14 were to impact Earth it would level an area the size of Washington DC or 80 million trees.

Scientists can gauge what kind of impact would happen due to a similar incident in 1908 known as the Tunguska Event. It was the largest impact event on or near Earth in recorded history.

Tunguska_event_fallen_trees-sm

From the data that has been collected from the Tunguska Event scientists can theorize that an impact of Asteroid DA14 would hit the Earth with the force of 185 Hiroshima Bombs or 1700 Kilotons. The impact of Tunguska destroyed an 830 mile radius, DA14 would have a similar blast area.

There were many testimonials of locals that described the Tunguska impact. S. Semenov, as recorded by Leonid Kulik’s expedition in 1930 said, “At breakfast time I was sitting by the house at Vanavara Trading Post [65 kilometres/40 miles south of the explosion], facing north. […] I suddenly saw that directly to the north, over Onkoul’s Tunguska Road, the sky split in two and fire appeared high and wide over the forest [as Semenov showed, about 50 degrees up—expedition note]. The split in the sky grew larger, and the entire northern side was covered with fire. At that moment I became so hot that I couldn’t bear it, as if my shirt was on fire; from the northern side, where the fire was, came strong heat. I wanted to tear off my shirt and throw it down, but then the sky shut closed, and a strong thump sounded, and I was thrown a few meters. I lost my senses for a moment, but then my wife ran out and led me to the house. After that such noise came, as if rocks were falling or cannons were firing, the earth shook, and when I was on the ground, I pressed my head down, fearing rocks would smash it. When the sky opened up, hot wind raced between the houses, like from cannons, which left traces in the ground like pathways, and it damaged some crops. Later we saw that many windows were shattered, and in the barn a part of the iron lock snapped.”

Meteor Crater in Arizona (below) was created by the impact of a meteorite that was 50 meters across, similar to the width of 2012 DA14 which has an estimated diameter of 50 meters.

Barringer_Crater_from_edge-sm

Such impacts happen about every 1000 to 2000 years and since most of them never impact the ground it’s hard to discover them without eyewitness accounts. For instance, vegetation has grown back on the Tunguska Event area,  the only accounts we have are from historical records.

Sources and Papers:

http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.ea.11.050183.00233

http://www-th.bo.infn.it/tunguska/papers/pss2.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_DA14,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunguska_event

William W.
I am an amateur astronomer with a focus on astrophotography and deep space objects. I have 15+ years in the web publishing business and over 20 years as a space enthusiast. I enjoy reading and writing about the amazing discoveries of brilliant scientists and engineers.
 
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