On Friday, Feb. 15, asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass within 17,200 miles—or 15 minutes—of Earth, according to scientist Bill Nye.
While the asteroid, which Nye said is comparable in size to the one responsible for the 1908 Tunguska event, is expected to pass harmlessly by, Nye said it is a very close shave, relatively speaking.
"This one will miss us by about 15 minutes," Nye explained. "Fifteen minutes difference and that's it."
If it were not for those 15 minutes, life for millions of people could end.
"NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office can accurately predict the asteroid's path with the observations obtained, and it is therefore known that there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with Earth," NASA further explains. "Nevertheless, the flyby will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close."
"If such a meteor were to hit Atlanta or New York City or Boston, that would be it for those municipalities," Nye said. As much as 1,200 square miles would be destroyed, Nye added.
According to Nye, there are approximately 100,000 "Earth-crossing" asteroids and, for the first time in human history, the possibility exists that something could be done should one threaten Earth.
"It is something that we as humans all over the world ought to get involved in," he said.
The flyby won't be visible to the eye, but some observatories will broadcast the event online. EarthSky.org has compiled a list of links to online viewing for those who want to tune in for live images.
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