Tonight an asteroid will skim our planet closer than any other known asteroid since surveys of our skies began in the mid 1990s. The asteroid is known as DA14 and is 50 metres across and will pass between the Earth and artificial satellites. There is no danger of the asteroid hitting the planet, however YouTube has shown that meteor shards may break into our atmosphere with a sonic boom, which has already happened in Russia, and can be seen in the footage below.
Reports indicate that in Russia the sonic boom smashed glass in office buildings, homes and interfered with telecoms networks, with around 500 reported injuries from glass shards.
Asteroid DA14 will pass Earth at a distance of around 17,100 miles and will be visible from around 8pm – 9:30pm from Scotland. The asteroid will be difficult to spot with the naked eye and any keen sky watcher is being recommended to use binoculars for a chance of spotting DA14.
For those without binoculars who would like to watch the event live, NASA Television will be providing a live webcast starting from 7pm, which can be viewed below.
For those that are using an Apple mobile device, you can view the live stream at: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/nasatv_live_iphone.html.
Russian Meteor Update
The Associated Press has a statement on the meteor from the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The academy says the meteor weighed 10 tons and entered the earth’s atmosphere at a speed of at least 33,000mph (54,000kph) and shattered between 18 and 32 miles above ground (30 to 50km).
The Itar-Tass news agency reports that some fragments fell into a reservoir outside the town of Cherbakul, quoting the regional governor’s office. The agency also cited military spokesman Yarslav Roshupkin as saying that a 20ft (6m) wide crater was found in the same area.
Donald Yeomans of the US Near Earth Object Programme in California said:
If the reports of ground damage can be verified, it might suggest an object whose original size was several metres in extent before entering the atmosphere, fragmenting and exploding due to the unequal pressure on the leading side vs. the trailing side (it pancaked and exploded). It is far too early to provide estimates of the energy released or provide a reliable estimate of the original size.
The European Space Agency has ruled out a link to the asteroid passing by earth tonight.