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article imageAsteroid 2012 BX34 brushes past Earth on Friday

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jan 27, 2012 in Science
A newly discovered asteroid will pass very close to the Earth on Friday. The asteroid will approach the Earth nearer than the Moon. Though astronomers say the asteroid will pass very close, they say it poses no danger to the Earth.
The space rock named asteroid 2012 BX34, according to Space.com, is about the size of a city bus. According to the Minor Planet Center and NASA's Asteroid Watch program, it will pass within 36,750 miles (59,044 kilometers) of the Earth at about 10:30 a.m. EST(1530 GMT) on Friday. This, according to astronomers, is equivalent to about 0.17 times the distance separating Earth and the Moon. The Moon orbits the Earth at a distance of about 240,000 miles (386,000 km). Universe Today reports the asteroid is traveling at about 8,900 meters/second (20,000 miles per hour).
Astronomers say the asteroid is about 36 feet (11 meters) wide. This makes it too small to threaten the Earth even if it impacts. Asteroid Watch scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, tweeted on Thursday: "It wouldn't get through our atmosphere intact even if it dared to try." Universe Today reports there is no risk of the asteroid impacting on the Earth's atmosphere, and that its trajectory is being closely monitored by Catalina Sky Survey in Arzona, Mt. Lemmon Survey, also in Arizona, and the Magdalena Ridge Observatory in New Mexico.
Even though the small asteroid poses no danger to the Earth, it is of interest to astronomers because it will offer yet another opportunity to observe an asteroid flyby. Spaceweather.com reports: "Advanced amateur astronomers might be able to observe the flyby as the asteroid brightens to 14th magnitude just before closest approach on Friday."
According to Space.com, higher values of magnitudes correspond to dimmer objects. A magnitude of 14 makes the asteroid about the same magnitude of brightness in the sky as the maximum brightness of the planet Pluto. The full moon, for instance, has a magnitude of about -12.75.
Increased awareness of asteroid and other space objects flyby and the threat they pose to the survival of mankind has led to increased interest among astronomers in searching the skies for space bodies that may pose danger to the Earth. According to Space.com, experts say asteroids measuring 460 feet (140m) can cause widespread destruction.
Last September, NASA announced it had identified about 90 percent of the largest near-Earth asteroids. According to astronomers, there are about 981 large near-Earth asteroids.
Scientists say that the Earth has sustained major impacts in geological history and that the impacts have had more profound influence on the course of evolution than earlier suspected. Scientists now believe that dinosaurs were wiped out by a catastrophic impact about 65 million years ago. According to Space.com, astronomer Rusty Schweickart, who chairs the B612 foundation, a group dedicated to predicting potentially catastrophic impacts, estimates that asteroid impact big enough to cause major disruption of human civilization occur at least once every 200 to 300 years.
More about Asteroid Watch program, nearEarth asteroid, Asteroid 2012 BX34
 
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