No need to panic. And nothing to see in the sky when you look up on Friday. But there will be a near-Earth asteroid (with the incredibly dull name of 2012 DA14) that will pass very close to Earth on February 15, 2013.
How close? At its closest point to us, it will be within the orbit of the moon and closer than some of our high-orbiting communications satellites. I know that 17,200 miles (27,680 kilometers) away sounds far away, but it’s not. Scientists are certain that it will not strike Earth this week (or in 2020 when it makes another near pass) as these orbits can be predicted with great accuracy.
Although you won’t see it with the naked eye, you can watch it live online on earthsky.org and if you ask what will happen when it passes us:
The short answer is … nothing. On the day it passes, most of us won’t see it or be aware of its passage, in any way. The asteroid won’t alter the tides. It won’t cause volcanoes. It’ll just sweep closely past us – as millions of asteroids have done throughout Earth’s four-and-a-half-billion-year history – some in your own lifetime.
To me, it’s still an amazing thing.