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Who will see the February 15 asteroid flyby?

You can see the asteroid flyby, if you have a computer and can watch online. Otherwise … you must be in the right place on Earth. And, still, it’ll be tough.

On February 15, 2013, an asteroid will sweep safely past Earth, well inside the moon’s distance, even inside the distance of some high-orbiting satellites. Many have asked:

Can I see it?

And the answer is, yes, definitely, if you’re willing to look into a computer screen in order to watch the event. Asteroid 2012 DA14 will not be visible to the eye. Strong binoculars or telescopes will be able to pick it up, but – unless you’re an experienced observer situated at just the right place on Earth (Indonesia is favored for this flyby) – your best bet is to watch online. Here are links to online viewing of the February 15 asteroid flyby.

If you’re determined to see the flyby, and you’re in the right place on Earth (see maps below), you might try obtaining asteroid 2012 DA14 tracking data from the website HeavensAbove.

This map shows locations in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia, where the asteroid 2012 DA14 can be witnessed via telescope or strong binoculars during the February 15, 2013 flyby. Map is a still from a NASA video.

Closest approach will be around 19:25 UTC (1:25 CST in the U.S.) on February 15. The asteroid will be at its brightest then – only about 17,000 miles above Earth’s surface – but, even for those in the right location, it will not be visible to the unaided eye because it is so small (about half a football field long). Closest approach comes during daylight for North America. Clearly, we won’t see it then. It’ll be early nighttime in Europe and the Middle East, however, and at least one public viewing event that we know about is taking place in Israel. Indonesia is favored to see close approach, because it’ll be the middle of the night there, but even those observers will need binoculars or telescopes to see close-passing asteroid 2012 DA14.

Look here for links to online viewing of asteroid 2012 DA14

North Americans won’t have nearly as good a view of the asteroid, because night won’t fall for us until after it has passed closest approach. Still, veteran amateur astronomers with decent sized telescopes might have a shot at it from 7 p.m. EST and 10 p.m. EST on on February 15. It’ll be a challenge. For more, see this article on the asteroid flyby from skyandtelescope.com. Map is a still from a NASA video.

If you’re a North American viewer with a telescope or strong binoculars, be sure to check out this article at skyandtelescope.com.

Bottom line: Asteroid 2012 DA14 – which will sweep safely and closely past Earth on February 15, 2013 – will not be visible to the eye. Telescopes and strong binoculars will be needed to pick it up. Plus you’ll need to be an experienced observer, used to tracking fast-moving objects in the night sky. There are many online viewing possibilities; links here.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 to sweep close on February 15, 2013

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