2013 Asteroid 2012 DA14 Flyby: How Did Scientists Monitor the February 15 near-Earth Track?

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By Jenalyn Villamarin | February 15, 2013 12:33 PM EST

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will make a remarkable near-Earth flyby today, February 15, and NASA officials confirmed that the asteroid is will not collide with the planet. The 2013 Asteroid 2012 DA14 flyby can be described as a "near-miss" experience but how exactly did the scientists determine and monitor the asteroid's track?

For the Asteroid 2012 DA14, scientists were able to predict its path and conclude the safety of planet Earth from collision with the aid of telescopes and math since close by asteroid observations are conducted optically. Researchers at La Sagra Observatory in Spain discovered Asteroid 2012 DA14 last February 2012 and the space rock's path was easily determined and monitored from there.

"The flight paths of space objects are very predictable. If you precisely know the location and the speed of something, well then, you can predict where it's going to be at any time in the future, as long as you don't go too far out," Mark Boslough, a researcher on asteroid impacts and physicist at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, revealed.

When it comes to the idea of a possible asteroid collision with Earth, Mark Boslough explained: "Scientists would be able to predict where the object would hit but they wouldn't know exactly how much damage it would cause without knowing the size."

The Arecibo Observatory equipment in Puerto Rico as well as the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California will conduct the asteroid measurements. "The radars will be aimed at this object not at the very closest approach, because it's not on the right side of Earth, but they will be observing it a couple of hours later. If we can get the radars on them, we can nail the orbit for the next several hundred years," Don Yeomans, NASA's near-Earth object expert, stated.

NASA has set up a live streaming for viewers who wants to witness the near-Earth asteroid flyby. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory live stream will include discussions, the asteroid's animated trajectory and real-time asteroid flyby monitoring from the Australian observatories.

Other live streams of the 2013 Asteroid 2012 DA14 near-Earth flyby will be provided at the Marshall Space Flight Center starting at 9 p.m. EST and the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy which begins at 5 p.m. EST.

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