Cloudy with Chance of Asteroids

February 8, 2013

NASA has reassured me that there’s no reason to freak out a week from today. That’s when an asteroid 150 feet in diameter, or half the length of an American football field, will pass closer to Earth than any other asteroid that we’ve seen coming our way. The flyby distance is 17,200 miles, or one-tenth of the distance from the planet to the moon. Or 5,000 miles farther than the longest distance between any two places on opposite sides of the Earth, such as New York City and Perth, Australia. But buried in NASA’s thorough Q & A about the asteroid, sexily named 2012 DA14, is this comment:

Scientists believe there are approximately 500,000 near-Earth asteroids the size of 2012 DA14. Of those, less than one percent have been discovered.

As more of those asteroids are discovered and their paths tracked, it’s easy to imagine them becoming part of weather forecasts. Can’t you see TV meteorologists/astronomers energetically pointing out another upcoming “close shave” (NASA’s cliche for 2012 DA14’s visit). And in keeping with the naming of hurricanes and now winter storms, maybe the next close shave will be with a giant space rock named “Asteroid Bob.”