Asteroid Viewing for Presidents’ Day

As I write on Presidents’ Day 2014, southern WI and specifically Madison, is enjoying a major snowstorm.

This is very liberal use, or maybe misuse of the word “enjoy”. As with much of the U.S., we have had an epic winter, more low temperatures than in most years past. The National Weather Service says the winter of 2013-14 is one of the top 15 in terms of low temperatures.

Snow accumulation has also been remarkable, if not for the amount that has fallen then because none of the fallen snow has melted in the past three months. We had a day above 20°F last week for the first time in many weeks.

Today’s winter weather warning means another unusually slow and treacherous drive home, to shovel a path to the house, so as to get the car off the street. But you don’t need those details; most of you have been there too, this winter.

Last night came news of an event to spice today up a bit, to distract from wintry weather. An extraordinary extraplanetary event is slated for 9pm EST time today.

An asteroid, estimated to be the size of three football fields, will pass within 43,000 kilometers of Earth. That’s roughly 26,800 miles. The distance between Madison, WI and Los Angeles, CA, is about 1,900 miles, to give a little perspective on this distance.

Asteroid ida 243 as photographed by the Galileo spacecraft on its closest approach to the asteroid August 1993.

Asteroid ida 243 as photographed by the Galileo spacecraft on its closest approach to the asteroid August 1993.Image courtesy of Wikipedia image collection.

This asteroid, named 2000 EM26, will eventually return and there is a chance of an even closer encounter with Earth in the next 100 years.

If you are some place with clear skies later today, you may be able to watch the asteroid fly past Earth by simply gazing up at the sky. The Science web site has a viewer as well, where you can watch the asteroid from the comfort of your home. The live stream starts at 9pm EST today, February 17, 2014.

To watch the asteroid pass by Earth online, use the link above. The live stream is provided by a robotically-controlled telescope perched on the volcano Teide, on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The special, robotically controled portion of this telescope is SLOOH; it can be viewed using a web browser, thus allowing for the live webcast, reports the Wikipedia on SLOOH.

Space.com also has a webcast scheduled for 2000 EM26 viewing tonight at 9pm EST. The snow and shoveling will hopefully be done by that time.

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Kari Kenefick

Kari has been a science writer/editor for Promega since 1996. Prior to that she enjoyed working in veterinary microbiology/immunology, and has an M.S. in Bacteriology, U of WI-Madison. Favorite topics include infectious disease, inflammation, aging, exercise, nutrition and personality traits. When not writing, she enjoys training her dogs in agility and obedience. About the practice of writing, as we say in DNA purification, spin, rinse and repeat.

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