Large Asteroid Makes Close Earth Approach On February 15th
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
You know the feeling of standing by a highway as an 18-wheeler rushes by, and you feel the rush of air from that vehicle slinging your hair into your face? Well, if it wasn’t for the vacuum in space, then we would hypothetically be getting that rush as asteroid 2012 DA14 makes its nail-biting, close-approach of Earth this weekend.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be skimming by Earth at just 17,000 miles away, which is closer to us than most major weather and television satellites, which sit at 22,000 miles away in geosynchronous orbit.
The 150-foot diameter asteroid will be in the eyes of every astronomer on Friday night, but for those who will not have access to view the closely approaching space rock, you can use online resources like Slooh to view it live.
Slooh, which essentially broadcasts all celestial events, will be tracking the asteroid from two professional observatory locations, including the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa and in Arizona.
The asteroid’s approach is an exciting moment for researchers, offering up a very rare, up close and personal opportunity to study passing space rocks.
“We are going to be looking closely for evidence of seismic activity on 2012 DA14 as it passes by,” says Binzel. “This is the first case of an object coming close enough to experience quakes AND where we have enough notice to plan observations.”
He said that as asteroids move through space, they slowly turn dark-red, which is caused to long exposure of cosmic rays and solar radiation.
“For decades, however, we have known about a handful of small asteroids that looked [light and fresh]; they were not space weathered,” Binzel said.
As 2012 DA14 threads between Earth and the geosynchronous satellite belt Friday night, NASA will be aiming its Goldstone radar at it, helping to ping data to create 3D movies showing the space rock from all sides. The space agency said that Goldstone may be the first to capture an asteroid-quake in action.
NASA will also be providing live coverage of the celestial event, starting at 2:00 p.m. eastern time tomorrow. Its half-hour broadcast from its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California will bring in real-time animation to show the location of the asteroid in relation to Earth.