Asteroid To Fly Past Earth In Early 2013
October 28, 2012

UCF Holding Asteroid Fly-By Viewing Party In February 2013

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

An asteroid approximately the size of a city block will be completing its closest ever fly-by in our planet's history early next year, and one prominent American university is planning a "viewing party" to commemorate the occasion.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) announced on Saturday that they would be hosting a special event on February 15, 2013, to watch asteroid 2012 DA14 come within 14,000 miles of Earth. Several asteroid and comet experts have been invited to the gathering, which will take place from noon to 3:30pm Eastern time on UCF's Orlando campus.

Dr. Michael F. A´Hearn and Dr. Harold Reitsema are among the speakers who have committed to be in attendance at the event, which is also being sponsored by the Florida Space Institute (FSI).

A'Hearn was the man in charge of NASA's Deep Impact mission, which successfully launched the first man-made object into a comet's nucleus. Reitsema, on the other hand, is a former scientist with the US space agency and a part of the B612 Foundation initiative to launch a telescope to help track asteroids that could potentially collide with our planet.

"The scientists will talk about why asteroid research is so vital to Earth and the new NASA and private efforts to track them," the university said in a statement. "The public also will get a chance to see the fly-by through exclusive live feeds from telescopes in La Sagra and Tenerife, Spain, where the astronomers who first discovered DA 14 will be tracking it. Live feeds from Majorca and other observatories are also planned."

"Experts say there is no chance the asteroid will hit Earth -- this time," they added. "But with more than 4,700 asteroids NASA has identified as potential threats to Earth, some as big as 16 football fields, these objects are getting a lot of attention."

That has inspired UCF physics professor Humberto Campins to work with NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to recover asteroid samples to study their structure and composition, to help prepare for a potential collision involving one of those planetoids.

The university said that the impact of an asteroid approximately the size of DA14 would have destructive power equivalent of "an atomic bomb", while a larger one would be "catastrophic." Thus, Campins, who led the first team to discover water ice on an asteroid two years ago, helped organize the "viewing party" in order to help educate the general public about these astronomical objects.

Registration for the event will open on November 15, and more information will also be released at that time.