Asteroid 2012 DA14 Trajectory

How to Watch Asteroid 2012 DA14′s Flyby of Earth

Copperheads! A historic astronomical circumstance is about to transpire in the skies above Earth (above the skies, technically). A space rock 50 meters wide (160 feet) will be passing just by the good Earth, getting as close as 27,700 kilometers (only 17,200 miles!). Never before has humanity witnessed something so large pass so close to us. But, don’t worry – we are not at risk of a “meeting of heavenly bodies,” as they say. This bad boy will be quietly on its way on the day of February 15, 2013 not to be seen again until 2046.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 was discovered earlier this month by the La Sagra Observatory in southern Spain. According to scientists, this space rock will pass closer to Earth than the Moon (which is 239,000 miles away from us). Even more than that, Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass within the geosynchronous orbit ring where we park most of our artificial satellites! That’s REAL close.

If it were to hit Earth - and let’s be clear IT WILL NOT - then, according to scientists who are studying this thing, Asteroid 2012 DA14 would enter our atmosphere at a stunning 12.7 km/sec (which is nearly 8 miles per second) and impact with a force around 3 or so megatons of TNT. So…a bad day for any unlucky city or town in the region of the impact zone. However, there is no reason to sell your house just yet because, as we mentioned earlier, Asteroid 2012 DA14 will NOT hit us. The next best thing is watching it safely from the surface of your home planet and being alive in the time of the Internet means you can do just that! Here is some information on where you can watch this historic flyby:

The Naked Eye:

Asteroid 2012 DA14 can be seen by the naked eye from several spots around the world, namely Eastern Europe, Australia and Indonesia (see map below). According to Space.com, you will know its the space rock in question because it will be moving at approximately the speed of a second hand on a clock. However, this asteroid will not be plainly visible, at least not for very long. You may need binoculars or some such device to see it more clearly. If you live in the Eastern Hemisphere of the Earth, then we suggest you head out to a local observatory at a nearby university, as most observatories will likely be following Asteroid 2012 DA14. If you live in the Western Hemisphere, then sorry – you’ll have to follow this thing online.


Watch Online:

Thankfully for most Westerners, the Internet is here to save the day. Many observatories will be broadcasting this epic flyby online for all to see. Here is a list of places online where you can watch Asteroid 2012 DA14 in all its space rock glory:

Space.com has an excellent page describing all of the various ways you can connect with this asteroid in real life or online (Space.com’s complete coverage). In fact, Space.com will be broadcasting a live feed of the asteroid from various observatories for everyone to watch. NASA will also be broadcasting this awesome event online, as well as providing a number of educational resources for you to learn more about near-Earth objects (NEOs) in general. Also, be sure to check out Phil Plait’s (The Bad Astronomer) fantastic blog post about this asteroid; his page is loaded with information about Asteroid 2012 DA14.

Have fun observing this space rock. And remember, doubling NASA’s budget means we can make NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program (NASA NEO) stronger. So, write Congress!