Last night, asteroid 2012 DA14 did its exceptional close passage, reaching on 15 Feb. at 19:25 UT a minimum distance of about 27500 km from the surface of our planet.
The Virtual Telescope planned a very special event since last summer and finally the day arrived. More than 150.000 viewers from 166 Countries jumped into our live page to spy this tiny rock. Unfortunately, the clouds came, too, but at least we had some clear skies soon after the minimum distance was touched. The image above is an exceptional document, showing 2012 DA14 while it was at about 36500 km from us. An exposure time of 3 seconds was used for each frame going to make this averaged image.
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 shown here 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.
The movie below gives even better the feeling of the event. 17 images, each with 3 sec of exposures, were assembled to make this animation.
A full res (16Mbytes) version is available.
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