Bengaluru: Asteroid 2012 DA14 brushed past Earth early Saturday morning (IST) causing no damage to any satellite. It passed inside the ring of geosynchronous weather and communications satellites. "The asteroid safely passed our planet 17,500 miles above Indonesia," NASA said.
The newly discovered asteroid, about half the size of a football field, was tracked by NASA and various space centres, giving scientists a rare opportunity for close-up observations without launching a probe.
At its closest approach, which occurred at 1924 GMT or 0055 IST, the asteroid passed about 17,200 miles (27,520 km) above the planet traveling at 13 km per second, bringing it nearer than the networks of television and weather satellites that ring the planet.
Although Asteroid 2012 DA14 is the largest known object of its size to pass this close, scientists had predicted that there would be no chance of an impact.
Currently, DA14 matches Earth's year-long orbit around the sun, but after today's encounter its flight path will change, said astronomer Donald Yeomans, with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"The close approach will perturb its orbit so that actually instead of having an orbital period of one year, it'll lose a couple of months," Yeomans said. "The Earth is going to put this one in an orbit that is considerably safer," he said.
For scientists, DA14 presented a rare, albeit short, opportunity to study an asteroid close-up. In addition to trying to determine what minerals it contains, which is of potential commercial interest as well as scientific, astronomers want to learn more about the asteroid's spin rate. The information not only will be useful to plotting DA14's future visits but could help engineers develop techniques to thwart more threatening asteroids.