Great news for fellow Philippine-based observers and amateur astronomers! The Asteroid 2012 DA14, the biggest space object to get so close to the Earth since regular sky surveys began in 1990’s, will be visible from our location on its closest approach to Earth on February 16, 2013, around 3 am local time.


Star chart generated through the web site Heavens-Above showing the path of the asteroid as viewed from the Philippines and the rest of the South East Asian region

Only a pair of binoculars is needed to see the asteroid. During its closest approach, it will  peak at magnitude 7.5 (just beyond naked-eye visibility), moving at a rate of 0.8 degrees for every 45 seconds; in context, our moon’s angular diameter is just 0.5 degrees!


Path of near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 on its closest approach to Earth on February 15, 2013 (February 16 local time); image released to public domain by NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office

DSLR owners might also want to try to image the passage of the asteroid. A 50 mm f1.8 lens mounted on any DSLR should be powerful enough to capture it. Mount the camera onto a tripod, set the ISO to maximum (e.g. 1600), set the aperture to widest (e.g. f/1.8), focus the camera manually to infinity, set the exposure to about 3 to 6 seconds (adjust exposure as necessary), use remote shutter or the time-delay function, point the camera at the asteroid’s predicted location (refer to star chart above), then press the shutter when ready. Take photos one minute apart. Background stars will remain stationary, but the asteroid will appear as a rapidly-moving dot heading towards north.You can actually compile images and do a time lapse :)

If weather permits, I will attempt to photograph 2012 DA14 through my telescope. Follow this blog to keep you posted, or leave a note to join me in my observation. Clear skies!

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© Anthony Urbano (Manila, Philippines)