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.
"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.
It bears watching. Some 500,000 objects about the size of "asteroid 2012 DA14" regularly cross Earth's path, according to scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. At least one object that size flies close to Earth about every 40 years and one hits every 1,200 years.
The asteroid's close path, which brings it through the orbits of telecommunications satellites, has bemused the press in India, which have run headlines such as "'Close' Asteroid May Miss Earth, But Could Take Out Your Phone," in the Economic Times.
Video of the asteroid will be shown (weather permitting) on the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center’s Ustream site (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc) between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., P.S.T.