Close encounter: UND scientists say asteroid flyby won't hurt--this time

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News Article

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Campus Unit

John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences


Are we going to see the Asteroid 2012 DA14 as it flies by our home planet over the next couple of days? At its closest approach--which was scheduled for Friday, Feb. 15 --it'll be about 17,500 miles above Earth's surface.

"No, we won't get a good view of it from here, even with good binoculars," said Tim Young, an experience star gazer also known for roaming the world with UND computer scientist Ron Marsh chasing eclipses. "But it's worth following with NASA's coverage of the event."

Young, an astrophysicist and supernova expert in the University of North Dakota Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, explains: "For us it'll be at its most visible at dusk today, when there's still enough light to make it very challenging to see."

However, with a good telescope, you might catch a glimpse, said Vishnu Reddy, a faculty researcher in the UND Department of Space Studies and well-known asteroid expert.

"You'll be able to see it from Grand Forks with a telescope, weather permitting," said Reddy. "It's about 11 in visual magnitude scale at its brightest around 6 p.m. Central Time tonight."

Indonesia appears to be the best spot on the planet for viewing this asteroid, Young said.

NASA Television will provide commentary starting at 3 p.m. Central Time today of the flyby of the relatively small 2012 DA14 asteroid. This event will provide a unique opportunity for researchers--such as UND's Reddy and UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Space Studies Mike Gaffey, to study a near-Earth object up close. The half-hour broadcast from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will incorporate real-time animation to show the location of the asteroid relative to Earth.

The commentary will be available via NASA TV and streamed live online.