Bill Nye the Science Guy, who lives in Studio City, said that with simple binoculars you may see a 160-foot-wide asteroid that is whizzing past Earth.
Nye said the best time to see it is Friday.
On Saturday afternoon at the Griffith Observatory a bunch of amateur astronomers on Saturday afternoon and evening to see what they can see in the skies, but not the asteroid.
Nye said in his newsletter:
Coming up Friday evening, have a look up. With binoculars, you may get a glimpse of Asteroid 2012 DA14, which was discovered by astronomers funded in part by The Planetary Society http://planetary.org. It’s missing us completely, but wow, is there a lesson to be learned for all of us humans.
The free public star parties at the observatory are held monthly with the assistance of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers from 2 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. They are a chance for the whole family to look at the sun, moon, visible planets, and other objects, to try out a variety of telescopes, and to talk to knowledgeable amateur astronomers about the sky and their equipment.
The large telescope in the building will be open until 10 p.m. and the astronomy shows in the planetarium and observatory will be ongoing as usual.
Video of the asteroid will be shown (weather permitting) on the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center’s Ustream site (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc) between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., P.S.T.
Always a teacher, Nye related memories of his schooling:
When I was in 2nd grade, our teacher, Mrs. McGonagle, told us that the reason the ancient dinosaurs went extinct was that their brains were small. This enable mice and rabbits to take all of the dinosaurs’ food, so the dinosaurs died out. To her credit, Mrs. McGonagle knew this theory was fraught with difficulties (lame). She showed us pictures in a book, shrugged her shoulders and pressed on. It seemed clear to everyone in the room that somebody like a titanosaurus would have little difficulty with mice or rabbits, except that they wouldn’t make much of a hors d’oeuvre, let alone a snack or light meal. Such a dinosaur would crush such a mammal like a penny on the railroad track (paper thin— I’ve tried it).
So, in my lifetime, a much more plausible theory came to be when geologists looking for oil around the Gulf of Mexico with magnetometers discovered an enormous sub-ocean ring of shocked rock— a crater long about 1983. Scientists soon inferred that the ring is an impact crater. It’s off the coast near Chixalub, Mexico. Looking further and farther, geologists like Walter Alvarez realized that there is a layer of the unusual element iridium buried at the same geologic depth all over the world. Iridium is atomic number 77. It’s heavy; its atomic mass is 192. So when the Earth was formed from molten rock, the iridium sank to the middle. To get iridium in a nice layer near the top of the Earth’s crust took an impactor— a hurtling asteroid with primordial iridium got its guts blasted worldwide. The ejecta were spread in a circle wider than the Earth’s diameter. Phew…
Asteroid 2012 DA14 is not nearly as big— not even close. But there’s a lesson for all of us. It’s about the same size as the impactor that smacked into the atmosphere above Tunguska, Siberia in June 1908. In other words, if an asteroid the size of 2012 DA14 (about 45 meters across) were to hit the atmosphere over Paris, that would be the end of Paris as we know it.
This one, asteroid 2012 AD14, is going to miss. But, there are about 100,000 more out there crossing the Earth’s orbit, and we don’t know where they are. Some day in the not too distant future, we humans are going to have to do something about one of these things. At end of the original movie “The Thing,” the journalist warns us: “Keep watching the skies…” It’s good advice, because our Solar System is a cosmic shooting gallery. Sooner or later, we’ll be a sitting duck.
To learn more, go to: Bill Nye the Science Guy