In a few days, sky watchers in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Australia will get a chance to see one big rock hurtling through the heavens. One very big rock. Compared with other asteroids traveling through space, this one may seem a relative pebble -- at half the size of a football field -- but for Earth, it will make for a relatively close call.
"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."
The asteroid, known as "2012 DA14," will pass inside the ring of Earth's geosynchronous weather and communications satellites this week, coming within just 17,200 miles of the Earth's surface at around 12:30 p.m. PT.
But don't worry, there's no chance, NASA says, that the asteroid might be on a collision course with Earth. Though the impact of an object this size would not be a global catastrophic event, it would surely cause massive and widespread devastation on a regional scale. On June 30, 1908, an asteroid similar to 2012 DA14 did in fact impact Earth, leveling trees for 820 square miles in Tunguska, Russia. These asteroids are serious business and could easily take out an entire city.
Want to learn more about the devastating consequences of an Earth impact? Use this Earth Impact Effects Program from Purdue University and Imperial College London to calculate the regional environmental consequences of a meteoroid impact on Earth.