10 Things for the Week of Feb. 10 - 16
8 February 2013
Your weekly look at upcoming events and stories from around our solar system.Special Asteroid Edition
1. CLOSE PASS
Talk about a close shave. On February 15th an asteroid about half the size of a football field will fly only 17,200 miles above our planet's surface.
2. DON'T PANIC
There's no danger of a collision, but the space rock, designated 2012 DA14, has NASA's attention. "This is a record-setting close approach," says Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at JPL. "Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we've never seen an object this big get so close to Earth."
3. RIDE ALONG
Our Eyes on the Solar System team created a nifty simulation that allows you to ride along on DA14 as it cruises past our home planet.
4. ASTEROID LOVE
February is a big month for asteroid events. On Valentine's Day in 2000, NASA's NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft became the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid -- appropriately named 433 Eros. A year later (February 12th), the spacecraft made the first soft landing on an asteroid (also Eros).
5. SUNSET SKY SHOW
DA14 poses a challenging, fast moving target for all but the most seasoned skywatchers. But this month is a great one for spotting another tough target -- Mercury. The smallest, fastest moving planet will join Mars and Earth's moon in the evening skies this month.
About once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth's atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before ever reaching the surface.
7. VERY RARE
Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the impact area.
8. EXTREMELY RARE
Only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth's civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences.
9. ROCKY HERD
There are more than 600,000 known asteroids in our solar system. Most are contained in the belt of rocky debris between Mars and Jupiter.
10. FIRST, THEN A PROMOTION
Ceres is an on-again off-again asteroid. It was the first object discovered in the asteroid belt and was considered for planet status. Later it was deemed an asteroid, only later to be promoted to dwarf-planet status (2006). Ceres is the closest dwarf planet to Earth and it will be visited for the first time by the Dawn spacecraft in February 2015.
Read More by Phil Davis