The Upcoming Asteroid Flyby — Can I See It?

This is the most common question we are asked, and the answer is “maybe.” It all depends on where you are located and what sort of equipment you have.
 
Closest approach will be around 19:25 UTC on February 15; this will be when the asteroid will be at its brightest. Even at this time, when 2012 DA14 is only about 17,000 miles above Earth’s surface, it will not be visible to the unaided eye due to its small size. Observers in Indonesia (which is favored to see close approach) will need binoculars to catch a glimpse of the asteroid as it moves rapidly through the sky.
 
The rest of us will need to use a telescope. In North America, 2012 DA14 will be no brighter than magnitude 11 when the Sun sets on the 15th. This is over 60 times fainter than the faintest star you can see with your eyes under perfect sky conditions. Also, it will still be moving quickly through the constellations — over 3 degrees (6 Moon diameters) per hour — and this speed, combined with its fading, will make it a challenging target, even for experienced amateurs. Algorithms in many of the software programs used to drive telescopes are not suited for fast movers like this one, and may point the telescope in the wrong locations (A test we conducted using a popular software package showed that it would point the telescope over a degree away from the actual position of DA14, well outside the one half degree field of view of most instruments). So seeing 2012 DA14 before it fades beyond the limit of most amateur telescopes will not be a simple task; it will require some thought and advanced planning. An invaluable tool in planning your observations is the JPL Horizons website (http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov), which can calculate the precise positions of 2012 DA14 for your location.
 
So can I see 2012 DA 14? The answer is yes — if you have access to a decent telescope, if you take the time to figure out where you need to look in advance, and if your sky is clear. A lot of work, but the reward is a glimpse of a house-size visitor from another part of the Solar System as it whizzes by our planet at a distance closer than many of the communications satellites we depend upon in our daily lives. A rare event, to be sure.
 
Those without telescope access may also get a glimpse. NASA will be streaming the latter part of the asteroid flyby on Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc – if the skies are clear in Alabama and the MSFC-based telescope can view DA14, you can use the Internet to get a peek at 2012 DA14 (which will look like a fast moving star) from the comfort of your home.

 

15 thoughts on “The Upcoming Asteroid Flyby — Can I See It?”

  1. Does anyone have the current updated epheremis based on the changes in delta-V and orbit due to the effect of Earth’s gravit on 2012 DA14?

    I’ve been looking for the new estimated orbital parameters everywhere. As near as I can figure the velocity change will change the length of the orbit from 371+ days to 356+ based on a estimated velocity change of +1.2 Km/sec. …

    I’m looking for better figures tho – so if you have them, please post them here.

    TY!

  2. I am and have been all my life ,intrested in space . From My comic book days of “BUCK ROGERS” to the present space station and I want to see all that I know is out of sight in the “BEYOUND” . With the help of NASA I shall see some of my dreams of space come true .

  3. Hi –
    The Ustream feed will be available without a password starting at 9 p.m. EST on Friday, Feb. 15. Hope you can join us.
    Thanks,
    Brooke Boen
    Senior Web Editor
    NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

  4. My name is jean and I was walking my dog last night in galston, ayrshire scotland, ka4 8qd! Around 8pm I was looking op at the sky to see if any stars were out as I have just bought a telescope! Amazingly I seen a bright shape moving across the sky, it was bigger than a plane, much higher in the sky and a strange shape! It was golng ( Im not up on this) north heading south east! I knew I had seen something smszing but then got up this morning and watch the news abot russia, I realise now what it was! I hope this helps with any informstion you need!

  5. NASA Statement on the Russian event:

    According to NASA scientists, the trajectory of the Russian meteorite was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object. Information is still being collected about the Russian meteorite and analysis is preliminary at this point. In videos of the meteor, it is seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was traveling from north to south. Asteroid DA14’s trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north.

  6. I have read it somewhere that this asteriod if hits us will have the impact
    of 180 Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombs.
    My ques is are there any chances for it?

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