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February 07, 2013

Countdown to asteroid flyby: Watch as experts discuss the flyby

Posted in: Science

Heart rates are picking up among scientists and sci-fi lovers alike as a huge asteroid prepares to swing by Earth next week.

Sky watchers who are on the edge of their seats can watch a live NASA media teleconference live Thursday at 11 a.m. PST, when experts will talk about our upcoming encounter with the 150-foot-diameter flying object.

Even better, you can watch a Ustream feed of the flyby provided by a NASA telescope at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.  That stream will be broadcast from 6 to 9 p.m. PST on Feb 15.  During the feed, NASA says, tweeters can send their questions to researchers.

As Hero Complex reported Wednesday, the asteroid will come hurtling toward Earth on Feb. 15.  NASA officials said Asteroid 2012 DA14 would come within “a remarkably close distance” of Earth. But the space agency said there was no chance — none — that the asteroid would hit our planet.

The orbit of the asteroid, which NASA has had in its sights for at least a year, is “very well known,” said Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, and it “cannot hit the Earth.” But NASA calculates it will come within 17,200 miles of our planet, about one-tenth the distance between Earth and the moon.

The asteroid has not been in the catalogs for long, NASA says.  Astronomers in southern Spain discovered it a year ago this month. DA14’s orbital pattern around the sun is about 368 days — much like Earth — so it’s made a series of close approaches, but this is the closest. But after this close approach, we can breathe easy for another three decades, NASA says, before it whizzes near us again.

Among teleconference participants: Yeomans, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Near-Earth Object office; Lindley Johnson, of the Near Earth Object Observations Program; and Edward Beshore, investigator with the University of Arizona’s  (brace yourself for the entire name here) Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer Asteroid Sample Return Mission.

– Amy Hubbard

@AmyTheHubb

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