Asteroid 2012 DA14: Will It Smash a Satellite?

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Artist's impression of asteroid 2012 DA14's Earth flyby.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

If your satellite TV goes out on Friday, can you blame it on an asteroid?

Highly unlikely, say scientists monitoring the approach of asteroid 2012 DA14, which will zoom closer to Earth on Friday than any other known object of its size.

The celestial visitor, which is almost as wide as the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, is due to pass as close as 17,100 miles at 2:24 p.m. EST (7:24 p.m. GMT) on Friday. That's closer than the television and communications satellites which circle the planet some 500 miles higher.

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"This asteroid seems to be passing in the sweet spot between the GPS satellites (which fly at about 12,600 miles above Earth) and the communication and weather satellites, so it's really extremely unlikely that any of these satellites would be threatened," said Donald Yeomans, who oversees NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

NASA has been providing details of the asteroid's flight path to satellite operators so they can determine how close it will pass to their particular spacecraft.

"No one has raised a red flag," Yeomans told reporters during a conference call last week. "I certainly don't anticipate any problems."

"I don't know of any odds for a satellite hit, but it must be a very low probability," Yeomans added Tuesday in an email to Discovery News.

Members of the Satellite Industry Association were not taking any particular precautions that the trade group is aware of, added spokeswoman Marie-Pierre Pluvinage.

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The non-profit Space Data Association, which shares satellite-tracking information among its member organizations and companies, said it had looked at the asteroid's projected flight path and determined none of the spacecraft monitored in its network would be impacted, chairman Ron Busch told Discovery News.

There’s no chance DA14 will hit Earth, though an object of its size can be expected to strike the planet about once every 1,200 years or so.

"Basketball-sized objects come in daily. Volkswagen-sized objects come in every couple of weeks. As you get to larger and larger sizes the number of objects out there is less and less, so the frequency of hits goes down," Yeomans said.

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