The Two-Way
5:50 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

For Australian Observatory, Asteroid 2012 DA14 Was Their Time In The Spotlight

Originally published on Sat February 16, 2013 3:01 pm

If you watched any of NASA TV's live coverage of asteroid 2012 DA14 buzzing Earth today, you were looking at a live feed of a telescope at the Gingin Observatory in Western Australia.

Shortly after DA14 completed its fly by, Lakshmi Singh and Diane Waugh of our Newscast unit spoke to the motley crew of astronomers and technicians who made the live feed happen.

After almost 24-hours on the clock, they still sounded electrified.

Auriol Heary, a parttime astronomer and full time teacher, said if you had been at the observatory, you would have seen "a lot of happy people around here."

She was impressed, she said, that they were able to pull it off.

Rick Tonello, the owner of Direct Astronomy Education Services, said he was trying to pinpoint the asteroid manually.

That means trying to find a spec of light moving at 17,450 miles per hour in the night sky without the help of a computer.

To give you an idea how fast this thing was moving, NASA released three images of what 2012 DA14 looked liked moving across the lens of the Faulkes Telescope South in Siding Springs, Australia:

(The asteroid is the bright dot moving right to left.)

Paul Woods, the IT coordinator at the observatory, said that during a dry rehearsal, they could not find the asteroid. Naturally, they were worried.

Today, however, with the help of NASA scientists they locked on to DA14 at around noon ET or 1 a.m. their time and they never looked back.

Woods said that the atmosphere was exhilarating.

"The landlines and all the mobile phones have been going off left, right and center," Woods said. "At one point, Rick had one call on the landline, one call on the mobile and he was still trying to guide the telescope with his left toe, I think."

Tonello said after 24 hours of excitement, he was tired. He said when 2012 DA14 finally reached its closest approach to Earth, there was no applause really.

"We used up all the excitement when we first acquired the target," said Tonello.

Update on Saturday at 3:47 p.m. ET. Another Image:

NASA released another animated image that shows just how fast the asteroid was moving. This one was also taken by the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia:

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