Watch Asteroid Buzz Earth

Asteroid 2012 DA14 (streak at top center) is seen seven hours before its closest approach to Earth. Image courtesy Dave Herald, Murrumbateman, Australia
Asteroid 2012 DA14 (streak at top center) is seen seven hours before its closest approach to Earth. Image courtesy Dave Herald, Murrumbateman, Australia

This Friday asteroid 2012 DA14 will go down in the record books as the closest approach of an object of its size since astronomers began keeping records a few decades ago.

Zipping past our planet closer than most orbiting communication and weather satellites, this office building sized chunk of rock should be visible to some lucky skywatchers in the Eastern Hemisphere.

When the asteroid is at its closest at 19:24 UTC (2:24 p.m. EST/11:24 a.m. PST) it will be flying over the eastern Indian Ocean, off Sumatra (approx. latitude: -6 deg . South / longitude: 97.5 deg.  East), according to NASA.

Unfortunately for folks in the Western Hemisphere this means it will be daylight and so predictions are that the best chances of catching a view will be from places like Africa and Asia after local nightfall on the 15th.

According to Universe Today, the best views will be from western Indonesia and Australia  when the asteroid will be crossing the overhead sky in the hours before dawn, while folks in Australia and eastern Asia may see it gliding across the heavens much like a fast-moving satellite in the low eastern sky the morning of the 16th.

Although it technically should be bright enough to be easily seen with binoculars (magnitude 7.4), a small telescope is really your best hope. Looking a lot like a faint satellite, what will make hunting down DA14 so tricky, is the fact that it’s moving crazy fast across local skies- covering the moon disk’s width in less than a minute.

Check out this detailed sky chart to hunt down the speedy space rock.

For those of us in the wrong hemisphere, time zone or don’t have the right equipment – then check out great live-streaming web-casts of the encounter online.

NASA will have coverage using a telescope at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET on Friday. 

There will also be a video feed by Slooh Space Camera  from their telescopes on the Canary islands, off the west coast of Africa and in Arizona starting at 9 pm EST.

Twice the size of the space shuttle, asteroid DA14 will fly between the Earth and many orbiting communication satellites on Feb.15, 2013. Courtesy of JPL/NASA
Twice the size of the space shuttle, asteroid DA14 will fly between the Earth and many orbiting communication satellites on Feb.15, 2013. Courtesy of JPL/NASA

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.