Space.com reports that asteroid 2012 DA14 makes a pass at Earth. It won’t be so close that it endangers us, but close enough that some of us can see it. It will, fortunately, miss satellites and Earth.
Its closest approach today at 2:24 EST will be over the Indian Ocean. It will pass just to the east off the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Although people in Hawaii, New Zealand, or the Western Hemisphere won’t be able to see it, others will. Those areas include parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and most of Australia. It will be just before sunrise on Saturday morning there, giving a good view of the flyby with a telescope or binoculars. People in the Southern Hemisphere get to see it prior to 1 pm EST on Friday.
Apparently, North Americans get a (slim) chance to see the asteroid using the same visual aids during the evening and night. At 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. EST, amateur astronomers may be able to see the magnitude 11 asteroid. The bigger the magnitude number, the dimmer the object. Therefore, Space.com says it will be faint—and fast. It will move at 0.8 degrees per minute—nearly twice the apparent diameter of the moon—and 7.8 kilometer per second at its closest range.
That’s about eight times the speed of a bullet from a high-powered rifle, Don Yeomons said at a press conference.
If North Americans get to see it at all, they should look to the northern sky. By Friday evening, the asteroid gets even smaller and slows down a little. It will be at about the spot between the Big and Little Dippers.
For people not wanting to waste their time searching, you have a few options. First, you can visit the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPLs) Horizon system online. Upon entering target body, latitude and longitude, and time span, you can pinpoint the asteroid’s exact location. Secondly, Space.com offers a series of free webcasts. Check Space.com for other webcasts from the Planetary Society and around the world.
Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Program Office at NASAs JPL, said today’s flyby marks one that’s quite close for an object of such a size.
The half-football-field-size asteroid will come within just 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers) of Earth as it flies by Earth. Interestingly enough, that is closer than many satellites that orbit at about 22,000 miles. For NASA researchers, it is the closest flyby ever known about in advance, which is causing quite a stir in the scientific community. Giving them a rare chance to look up-close at a decent-size asteroid, 2012 DA14 will be measured by NASA through a variety of means. NASA provides streamed commentary starting at 1 pm.
Cell phone and computer service may be disrupted, experts say.