For something that made so much news and caused so much anxiety, the asteroid known as 2012 DA14 sure doesn’t look like much. A 150-ft. (45 m) rock that passed just 17,200 mi. (28,680 km) from Earth (or thousands of miles below some of our communications satellites) it could have caused 2.4 megatons worth of damage if it had hit. For the record, 2.4 megatons is 180 Hiroshimas.
But astronomers knew it wouldn’t hit. In some ways asteroid tracking is more reliable than weather forecasting, since the atmosphere is a whole lot more dynamic than empty space. But knowing that 2102 DA14 was going to be flying by meant astronomers could turn their telescopes skyward and try to spot it. The Deep Space Network radio antenna at Goldstone, CA, captured this 73-frame clip. Each pixel measures abut 12 ft. (4 m), and the loop runs through four times. During the 73 frames, the asteroid went from 74,000 mi. away to 195,000 mi. (120,000 to 314,000 k). Its next approach won’t be so close, but it has a lot of kinfolk out there. This close brush is a reminder that we may not stay so lucky forever