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Friday's near-miss asteroid could help track more dangerous ones (+video)

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will buzz within 17,200 miles of Earth – a record for a known object of that size. While it's no threat to hit, it might help scientists find and track others that are.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will buzz within 17,200 miles of Earth – a record for a known object of that size
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Asteroid 2012 DA14 is on course to buzz Earth Friday, making its closest approach at 2:24 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The object, roughly 150 feet across, poses no threat to Earth. But its close approach, which will bring it to within 17,200 miles of the planet, is a record for a known object of that size.

Coming so close, the asteroid represents a prime target for scientists who are interested in the object for scientific reasons as well as to improve their abilities to forecast asteroid orbits as a way to keep tabs on potentially hazardous objects.

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Factors that influence those orbits can be subtle, notes Ed Beshore, an astronomer at the University of Arizona at Tucson and a key player in NASA's upcoming OSIRIS-Rex mission to asteroid 1999 RQ36. The launch is slated for 2016.

For instance, when sunlight hits the surface of an rotating asteroid, the asteroid returns that energy to space in the form of heat.

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