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Asteroids revolve around the sun but are smaller than planets. (Dieter Spannknebel / The Image Bank / Getty Images)

Look Out Below!

An asteroid will zoom past Earth on Friday

By Sara Goudarzi | February 14 , 2013

On Friday, an asteroid nearly the width of a football field will fly close to Earth. How close? This asteroid, named 2012 DA14, will zoom between our planet and the sphere of orbiting satellites that surrounds Earth.

Asteroids are space rocks that revolve around the sun but are smaller than planets.

Don’t worry: Researchers have been monitoring the asteroid’s path, and there’s no chance that 2012 DA14 is on a collision course with Earth. In fact, an asteroid of this size hits our planet only about once every 1,200 years.

At 2:24 p.m. Eastern time on February 15, the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth. Then 2012 DA14 will pass over the Asian country of Indonesia in the Indian Ocean. It will whiz by at speeds of 17,400 miles per hour and be about 17,200 miles above our planet’s surface. The asteroid will be much closer than our moon, which is about 240,000 miles from Earth.

Despite its close proximity to Earth, 2012 DA14 can be seen only with powerful telescopes. It will appear as a tiny dot of light. That’s because the asteroid is only 150 feet across.

Although 2012 DA14 is considered a small asteroid, it’s the largest space rock to come this close to Earth without hitting the planet.

Discovered in 2012, the asteroid has made several near-Earth flybys. Astronomers estimate that this year’s approach is the closest the asteroid will come for at least another 30 years. This opportunity allows researchers to study the space rock up close. They hope it will help them learn more about our planet and galaxy.

NASA Television will document the space rock’s path as the asteroid flies past Earth. You can watch the asteroid event live at NASA’s website and hear commentary from scientists.

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