London: An asteroid due to whizz past the Earth this week could take out vital telecommunications satellites, scientists warn. They are sure there is no chance of the 45.7 metre wide space rock hitting the planet. However, there is a remote possibility that it could collide with one of more than 100 telecommunication and weather satellites in fixed orbits above the Earth.
The asteroid, 2012 DA14, has been closely tracked since its discovery a year ago, 'The Telegraph' reported. It is predicted to reach its nearest point to the Earth on Friday. Experts have calculated it will stay at least 27,681 km away - easily far enough to be safe, but a very close shave in astronomical terms. Scientists have never observed such a narrow miss before.
Dr Dan Brown, from Nottingham Trent University, said telecommunication satellites - that ping data between our mobile phones - could be in danger. Travelling at between 20,000 kph and 30,000 kph, or eight times the speed of a rifle bullet - the asteroid will fly inside the orbits of high geostationary satellites some 35,406 km above the Earth. "These are the satellites that provide us with telecommunications and weather forecasts," said Brown.
"There are loads of them but you're talking about a very big area. It would be very unlucky if a satellite was hit. The asteroid is more likely to hit some space junk, but most of this is only about a centimetre across and the impact won't even be noticed," said Brown. Through binoculars, the object should be visible as a tiny dot of light crossing the sky.