Don't consider this a count-down to doomsday, but on February 15 an asteroid is going to come pretty close to Earth.
And this is only one of thousands of objects that are destined to one day enter our neighborhood in space.
"There are lots of asteroids that we're watching that we haven't yet ruled out an Earth impact, but all of them have an impact probability that is very, very low," Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a press briefing.
This particular asteroid is called 2012 DA14. NASA scientists reiterated Thursday that people have nothing to worry about.
"No Earth impact is possible," Yeomans said.
The asteroid is thought to be 45 meters -- about half a football field -- long. It will come no closer than 17,100 miles from our planet's surface.
An object the size of 2012 DA14 appears to hit Earth about once every 1,200 years, Yeomans said.
"There really hasn't been a close approach that we know about for an object of this size," Yeomans said.
On its close approach to Earth, the asteroid will be traveling at 7.8 kilometers per second, roughly eight times the speed of a bullet from a high-speed rifle, he said.
If it were to hit our planet -- which is, again, impossible -- it would collide with the energy of 2.4 megatons of TNT, Yeomans said. This is comparable to the event in Tunguska, Russia, in 1908. That asteroid entered the atmosphere and exploded, leveling trees over an area of 820 square miles -- about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island. Like that rock, 2012 DA14 would likely not leave a crater.
Here's a comforting thought: Meteorites enter the Earth's atmosphere all the time. About 100 tons of rocks come in from space every day, Yeomans said. They are mostly small, from the size of a grain of sand to the size of a human fist.
If you have a telescope at least a few inches in diameter, you would see it as a small point of light moving across the sky, said Timothy Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
You'll have to be located in Eastern Europe, Asia or Australia for the best telescope-aided view, scientists said. It won't be visible to the naked eye.
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