Skywatch 2013: Close Call with Asteroid – Viewing Resources!

February 6th, 2013

Real-time telescopic views of asteroid 2012 DA 14 will be provided to the world by a team of high-school students from Dexter and Southfield Schools. Led by sophomore Nicholas Weber, the team has had extensive experience tracking and imaging asteroids. They will measure changes in the space rock’s brightness to provide a visual counterpart to radar observations being conducted by NASA scientists in California. Credit: Clay Center Observatory

It’s coming to a sky near you – a late Valentine’s Day gift from the heavens!

On February 15, a small asteroid is flying by within 18,000 miles of Earth.

The asteroid, known as 2012 DA14, was discovered last year and is roughly the size of a school gymnasium (130 to 160 feet, or 40 to 50 meters, across)

This space rock slips by our planet at roughly 1/12th of the way to the Moon and well within range of many Earth-orbiting satellites.

During its flyby, 2012 DA14 will pass rapidly from south to north among the stars and will be situated between the Big and Little Dippers once it gets dark on the U.S. East Coast. By then the asteroid will be too faint to see in most backyard telescopes.

The flyby creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids.

This event is being eyed by a number of observatories, among them the Clay Center Observatory of Brookline, Massachusetts.

On Friday, February 15th, weather permitting, real-time high-definition video from the Clay Center Observatory will be available from 6 p.m. EST until 4 a.m. the next morning (3 p.m. to 1 a.m. PST).

The video feed can be freely accessed worldwide via the observatory’s Ustream channel at:

Also, visit a countdown clock showing how much time remains until the tracking begins at:

NASA is also providing detailed information concerning the Earth flyby of 2012 DA14 at:

A Ustream feed of the flyby from a telescope at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will be broadcast from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. PST (9 p.m. to midnight EST) on Feb. 15.

View the feed and ask researchers questions via Twitter about the flyby at:

Lastly, the folks at AGI have used their Systems Tool Kit (STK) software to create an animation showing 2012 DA14’s deep space trajectory as it approaches Earth that details this impressive close pass of the asteroid.

Thanks to AGI’s Stefanie Claypoole, this animation is available at:

By Leonard David