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On the evening of 15th February 2013 an asteroid will make a close approach with Earth. Thought to be as large as 80 metres in diameter this chunk of space rock is predicted to swing past Earth at almost 17,500mph. It is the closest approach of an asteroid to Earth in the last decade, moving inside the orbits of our geosynchronous communication satellites, which include many of our TV and weather forecasting satellites.
Could Asteroid 2012 DA14 hit Earth?
No. The path of asteroid 2012 DA14 is now very accurately known. It will pass at a distance of around 17,200 miles from Earth’s surface. What is less certain is how close it will come to colliding with any one of our 100+ telecommunication and weather satellites. The possibility of the asteroid colliding with a satellite is there, but the chances of it happening are remote. We do know that the International Space Station is going to be safe from the asteroid. The ISS orbits Earth at a much closer distance than the asteroid’s path.
Can I see Asteroid 2012 DA14?
Yes. At its brightest Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be about 8th magnitude. The unaided human eye can roughly see stars down to 6th magnitude from a dark sky site, so you’ll need binoculars or a small telescope to view the asteroid passing by. You’ll see it as a featureless white dot moving slowly but surely up from the eastern horizon near the constellation of Leo and Coma Berenices, possibly varying in small scale brightness as it tumbles through space.
In the UK it’ll first appear at its brightest just to the left of the bright star Denebola in the constellation of Leo at about 19.50 – 19.55UT on the evening of 15 February. Between 20.15 to 20.25UT the asteroid will pass through the clump of faint stars (Melotte 111) that make up most of the constellation of Coma Berenices.
By 21.30 the asteroid reaches the handle of the Plough (Ursa Major), passing between the main constellation stars of Alioth and Megrez between 21.30UT and 21.40UT. At this point the asteroid is predicted to have faded to around 9th magnitude, and so will be at the limit for binocular observing. It’ll still be visible in a telescope.
As the asteroid physically moves further from Earth its apparent motion in the sky will slow appreciably as it crosses further north from Ursa Major to Ursa Minor. A telescope of 6” (150mm) or 8”(200mm) should be able to track it through to midnight as the asteroid moves steadily away from us, eventually disappearing from view.
How to find Asteroid 2012 DA14 in the night sky from the UK
The best way to find the asteroid is to view the track of the asteroid on the linked star maps below and become familiar with the star patterns it is likely to pass through. Then, on the night, have a wide field low power eyepiece on your telescope and lie in wait at an easy-to-find location on the asteroid’s path. If you’re ready 5-10 minutes before the predicted time of passage through that point you’ll stand a great chance of picking it up.
The asteroid’s movement will be clearly visible as a slow plod across your field of view. From there you can then continue to track the asteroid as it moves further away from Earth.
BAA Star Map 1 for Asteroid 2012 DA14 – 19.50UT to 21.00UT 15 February 2013
BAA Star Map 2 for Asteroid 2012 DA14 – 21.00UT to 01.00UT 15/16 February 2013
2 >> Select a telescope and check the availability indicator on the telescope information screen
3 >> Hire period is for 7 or 14 nights. Friday to Friday
4 >> Make your booking request here, or phone Seb on 07884 001815
5 >> On the first day of your hire period collect your telescope from us, or be available to receive delivery from us at a pre-arranged time
6 >> Pay for your telescope hire on the day of collection or delivery by cash. If paying by paypal please make payment at least 24 hours in advance
7 >> Read the set-up instructions, storage and usage instructions and observing guide – and hope for clear skies!
We are located on the High Street (A5120) in Toddington close to Jct 12 of the M1. From the motorway head up the hill into Toddington. The road bears left at the Church. Continue along the road past the shops on your right. We are 100 yards or so up on the left.
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Dark Sky Telescope Hire
41 High Street
Tel. 07884 001815
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