Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on August 26, 2012, PHA (potentially hazardous asteroid) 2012 QG42, an asteroid the size of a 14-story building, will make its close approach to Earth Thursday evening (September 13) -- just months after newly discovered asteroid 2012 LZ1 paid an unexpected visit to Earth on June 16th. Slooh Space Camera will cover its near-approach on Sept. 13, live on Slooh.com, free to the public, starting at 4:00 p.m. PDT / 7:00 p.m. EDT / 23:00 UTC -- accompanied by real-time discussions with Slooh President Patrick Paolucci, Slooh Engineer Paul Cox, and Astronomy Magazine columnist Bob Berman. Viewers can watch live on their PC or favorite iOS/Android mobile device.
The asteroid is estimated to be 190-430 meters (625-1,400 ft) across and will pass within 7.5 times the Moon's distance from our planet.
Due to its proximity to Earth and size, 2012 QG42 qualifies as a "potentially hazardous asteroid", which means that it could collide with Earth in the distant future.
When notification of the potential discovery was published, Slooh member Norm Pritchett immediately commanded Slooh's online robotic telescopes in the Canary Islands to image the asteroid -- all from the comfort of his home in California some 6,000 miles away. His precise measurements of its position, submitted to the Minor Planet Center, helped determine the accurate orbit of the asteroid.
Slooh will be using at least three of its online robotic telescopes to provide live image feeds as the celestial intruder makes its closest approach to Earth throughout the night of 13/14 September 2012.
At a magnitude of only 13-14, about the same faintness as the demoted ex-planet Pluto, the asteroid is a challenging target for backyard telescopes. To observe this kind of object requires large telescopes, equipped with ultra-sensitive CCD cameras, carefully set-up to point and track such a fast moving object -- Slooh's Half Meter Telescope at its Canary Islands Observatory is perfect for the task.
Bob Berman says, "Near-Earth objects have been whizzing past us lately, undetected until they have been practically on top of us. This illustrates the need for continued and improved monitoring for our own future safety. It is not a question of if, but when such an object will hit us, and how large and fast it may be going. Remember, the last to strike us blew up in our atmosphere a mere century ago, on June 30, 1908, over Siberia, and did the kind of damage that could have killed 40 million people if it occurred in today's world in a densely populated area. So to observe them -- as we will do live on Thursday evening -- provides instruction and perhaps motivation to keep up our guard, as well as a sense of relief as it speeds safely past at a mere one fifteenth the distance to the nearest planets."
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