Last week’s close encounter with Asteroid 2012 DA14 prompted a flurry of activity from astronomers across the globe wanting to capture this exciting event. Never before had an asteroid this size (approximately 40 m/130 ft wide) passed so close to Earth (27,200 km/17,200 miles) that we knew of before it took place.
On February 1, Dr. Gianluca Masi, a professional astronomer, as well as the creator and curator of the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 web page, contacted Software Bisque about plans to broadcast real time video of the asteroid using his Paramount MEs
With 150,000 viewers already signed up to witness the event, Dr. Masi wanted to employ Software Bisque’s latest software technologies (including TheSkyX Pro, TPoint with Super Model, and the Camera Add On) to track this fast-moving (0.65 degrees per minute) visitor.
On February 6, from Golden Colorado, Tom Bisque teamed up with Dr. Masi for an intense “remote observatory control and tutorial session" to setup, configure, model, train periodic error, and test the new software.
A photo of M81 they snapped that evening contained the photons from a yet to be discovered supernova. Chalk one up to serendipity.
As the asteroid approached the night of February 15, viewers immediately lit up the chat room on the Virtual Telescope Project site asking, “Why is the observatory roof closed?”
Fortunately, the Paramount MEs, with the help of TheSkyX Pro, were able to continue to track the position of the asteroid until a break in the clouds permitted visual observation.
Dr. Masi wrote the following about his experience that night,
“For the occasion, the PlaneWave 17″ robotic unit was used, trusting its exceptional Paramount ME robotic mount. The mount was controlled by TheSkyX Pro suite and the software was perfectly tuned to track this VERY DIFFICULT target. The results…speak by themselves: the asteroid was perfectly tracked; despite it was moving at 0.65 degrees per minute! All this after the scope was just slewed, without any manual adjustment! Amazing.”
After its latest pass, asteroid 2012 DA14 will visit us a bit more often, about once every ten months.
We look forward to 2012 DA14's next visit!
The Valencia Astronomy Association was able to capture this 120 second video of asteroid 2012 DA14 using a CDK 17-inch and SBIG ST-7XME mounted on a Paramount ME (an 8’ x 5’ field of view):
02-22-2013 1:40 PM
Daniel R. Bisque