NASA to broadcast asteroid flyby online

15 Feb 2013

This diagram illustrates the passage of asteroid 2012 DA14 through the Earth-moon system on 15 February 2013. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech

Have you ever wanted to see an asteroid streak past the Earth? Well, today’s your chance, weather permitting, as US space agency NASA will broadcast online the flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14.

NASA has said there is no chance of what it describes as “a small near-Earth asteroid” actually colliding with the planet.

The half-hour broadcast from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California begins at 2pm EST (7pm GMT) on NASA’s network, and about 25 minutes later the asteroid is expected to reach it closest approach to Earth, 26,700 kilometres above its surface.

Geostationary satellites are further away and that’s less than one-tenth of the distance from Earth to the moon, NASA said.

The broadcast, which will be animated, will update the exact location of the asteroid as it approaches Earth. If the weather is favourable, NASA will also show live images of the space rock flying overhead, from observatories in Europe and Australia.

NASA said the flyby will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close. That object is about 45 metres long and weighs an estimated 130,000 tonnes, said NASA. It’s travelling at 7.82 kilometres per second.

The asteroid will approach Earth from the south, passing over Antarctica and then the Indian Ocean.

A team of amateur astronomers affiliated with the OAM Observatory, La Sagra in Spain discovered the asteroid last year, which is why its name includes 2012.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic