27,700km sounds far, far away… but not when you’re talking about a 50m wide, 190,000t asteroid. In this case, it’s 2012 DA14, which made its pass by our tiny area in the Solar System in the early hours of Saturday. It was close enough for a number of telescopes to get a clear view of its journey, including three based in Australia.
If you’re expecting vision of a giant, flaming ball of rock, you’re going to be disappointed (not that there’s been a shortage of that recently). In the field of astronomy, it’s mostly about streaks and pinpoints of light, so comparatively, this is thrilling stuff.
The top video was captured by Brisbane’s Samford Valley Observatory. If the asteroid looks like it’s going pretty darn fast, that’s because the clip has been sped up by a factor of 50.
Here’s a clip from Gingin Observatory in Perth, Western Australia. Footage from Gingin was used in a number of international broadcasts, including this one on CNN.
Finally, Murrumbateman Observatory in Canberra captured these pictures. It’s like watching a real-life game of Space Invaders, a solitary laser bolt making its way slowly toward an invisible extraterrestrial enemy. Frame rate is about right too!
The clips aren’t quite as exciting as the limitless supply of dashcam footage from Russia’s explosive encounter with a wayward heavenly body, but I think it’s great that Australia can play such an important role on an international stage.