Friday’s close approach of asteroid 2012 DA14

We are now just a few days away from the dramatic passage of this near-Earth asteroid, which takes place on 2013 February 15 approaching to within 27,700 km of the Earth’s surface at about 19:24 UT on that day whilst travelling at 7.8 km/sec. During the last week many more observatories have imaged the object, in particular; Mount John Observatory, New Zealand (MPC Code 474); the 2.0-m Faulkes Telescope South (which is now back in business after last month’s devastating bushfires which badly affected Siding Spring and the surrounding community) (MPC Code E10); as well as the new LCOGT 1.0-m ‘B’ telescope at Cerro Tololo, Chile (MPC Code W86).

Reaching 7th magnitude, it will be the brightest-ever NEO to be observed approaching the vicinity of our planet (<0.1 AU) and will be visible with modest telescopic aid, e.g. binoculars. 2012 DA14 will pass about 10x closer to the Earth than our companion Moon. To put this in perspective, scientists at NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office in Pasadena, California estimate that an asteroid the size of 2012 DA14 flies this close every 40 years on average and that one will impact Earth, on average, about once in every 1,200 years!

Depending on your location, you are advised to obtain your local topocentric RA and Dec coordinates from websites such as can be found at:

Minor Planet Center ephemeris service

HORIZONS Web-Interface


 You will need to enter either your latitude and longitude, or the MPC Code of a nearby observatory.

I have prepared a chart for the interval 19:50-21:00 UT in anticipation of the object’s visibility soon after it rises near the eastern horizon as seen from the southern UK. A second chart covers the later period, 21:00-01:00 UT on the evening of Feb 15/16. Full observing details and a 5-minute ephemerides for UK observers are also available here. The charts are probably usable by all UK observers since the object will be conspicuous owing to the fact that it will be seen to be moving in real time. Look with binoculars or a small telescope within a degree or so of the predicted position at any given time and it should ‘jump out’ as a moving star.

The weather forecast for most of the UK is not especially favourable owing to excessive cloud but watch out for gaps which may appear especially in the Norfolk area. Observers located in north-east Scotland may be best-placed weather-wise. Currently southern Spain is predicted to have clearest skies in Europe for this event. Further weather updates will be provided.

NASA have set up a very informative webpage with useful FAQs, orbit diagrams and some videos of interviews, etc.

Richard Miles  (Director, Asteroids and Remote Planets Section)

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