'Near-miss' asteroid is tracked by Hertfordshire astronomers

An asteroid the size of a small office block is due to pass by Earth on Friday 15 February in one of the closest ‘near-misses’ in recent history. Although there is no chance of the asteroid hitting Earth, the huge rock is being closely monitored by astronomers at the University of Hertfordshire’s Bayfordbury Observatory, as part of an on-going programme to monitor ‘Near Earth Objects’ (NEO).

Weighing 130,000 tonnes and travelling at over 28,000 miles per hour, the asteroid, officially named 2012DA14, will pass in-between Earth and its communication satellites such as Sky’s Astra satellite. Astronomers Dr Mark Gallaway and David Campbell are using high-powered telescopes to track its movements.

Mark said: “Although there is absolutely no chance of this particular asteroid hitting Earth, it does highlight the dangers of so called ‘Near Earth Objects’ of which about ten thousand of the expected one million have been identified.

“By monitoring its movements we will be able to improve our understanding of these potentially hazardous objects.”

Too faint to see with the naked eye, the asteroid, which will pass closest to Australia, will be visible through binoculars and located with the help of the University’s ‘finder chart’ at approximately 8pm.

For more information on the research undertaken by Bayfordbury Observatory, visit http://bayfordbury.herts.ac.uk/research-at-bayfordbury-observatory.htm

Picture caption 1: Artist’s impression shows how the ‘near-miss’ asteroid might look passing in-between Earth and its communication satellites on Friday 15 February. (Copyright: The University of Hertfordshire)

Picture caption 2: Finder chart will help the public track the asteroid’s journey past recognisable star constellations in the Eastern sky on Friday 15 February. (Copyright: The University of Hertfordshire)

For more information, please contact Hannah Broady, University of Hertfordshire Press Office on 01707 284022, Email:h.broady@herts.ac.uk

Notes to Editor

About the University of Hertfordshire

The University is the UK’s leading business-facing university and an exemplar in the sector.  It is innovative and enterprising and challenges individuals and organisations to excel. 

The University of Hertfordshire is one of the region’s largest employers with over 2,650 staff and a turnover of almost £233 million.

With a student community of over 27,200 including more than 2,800 students from eighty-five different countries, the University has a global network of over 175,000 alumni. 

It is also one of the top 100 universities in the world under 50 years old, according to the new Times Higher Education 100 under 50 rankings 2012.

For more information, please visit www.herts.ac.uk

About Us

• The University of Hertfordshire is the UK’s leading business-facing University and an exemplar in the sector. It is innovative and enterprising and challenges individuals and organisations to excel. • The University of Hertfordshire is one of the region’s largest employers with over 2,425 staff and a turnover of more than £234 million. With a student community of over 25,100 including more than 2,900 international students from over 120 different countries, the University has a global network of over 175,000 alumni. For more information, please visit www.herts.ac.uk • The University of Hertfordshire was awarded the Times Higher Education ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2010’.

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