Let the end of the World Watch(tm) begin!

J. C. Conway

Most communications satellites circle the Earth in the Clarke Belt–i.e., in Geostationary Orbit 22,236 miles above Earth (about 1/10th the distance to the Moon). At that height, a satellite can orbit at a speed that matches Earth’s rotation, allowing the satellite to remain “stationary” relative to Earth’s spinning surface.

Recently, astronomers have discovered a new asteroid, 2012 DA14, orbiting the sun in a path that crosses Earth’s orbit. It’s about the size of half a soccer field. When asteroids are first discovered, their orbits cannot be discerned. It takes movement and additional observations to calculate an object’s trajectory. Astronomers now know its orbit. On February 15, 2013, it will approach Earth from the south and will pass, at its closest, to within 17,200 miles–5,000 miles closer than our communications satellites.

“This is a record-setting close approach,” according to NASA’s head of asteroid tracking, Don Yeomans. “Since regular sky surveys…

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