A gravitational slingshot will send an asteroid half the size of a football field skipping closer to the sun after a close encounter with Earth next week, report NASA scientists.
The asteroid, 2012 D14, will come within 17,100 miles of Earth on Feb. 15 at 2:24 p.m. ET, a record close-approach for an asteroid this size. And then we likely won't see it again for at least a century, after Earth's gravity slingshots the space rock onto a shorter orbit that takes it closer to the sun.
"No Earth impact is possible," said asteroid expert Donald Yeomans of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. Instead, the 17,450 mile-per-hour close encounter will pass between the higher orbits of communication satellites and the lower orbits of navigational Global Positioning Satellites (GPS). Any impact with a satellite is, "highly unlikely," Yeomans says.
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