Thursday, January 19, 2012

Viewing Asteroid 433 Eros in Early 2012

Not only is this asteroid perfectly appearing for viewing in the early months of 2012, it has significant historical history that changed the world of modern astronomy. On August 13, 1889, Carl Witt discovered the first NEA (near earth asteroid) in the history of the world, and in that discovery, the astronomical unit was born. It wasn't actually 'invented' then, but did help in determining the exactness of it. Therefore, this asteroid, the second-largest NEA, after 1036 Ganymed, has a unique history (for asteroids in general), and will be visible January-February 2012!

NEAR-Shoemaker NASA craft image of 433 Eros

On January 31, 2012, this asteroid will pass 0.17867 AU (26,729,000 km; 16,608,000 mi) from the sun, being at aphelion; this asteroid is not, although, at the closest it can get to the sun. It will travel through Leo, Sextans, and Hydra over this two-month period, brightening from 9.2 mag and goes to 8.6 mag on the 25 of January. It fades again in early February. [Sky&Telescope observing PDF]
What about the internet hoaxes have also been released: 433 Eros is going to end the world this January! This cannot be true, for "It's ... highly unlikely that it will have any impact on Earth, indirectly or directly," writes. But how can we presume this? Well, look at the statistics of this asteroid. 433 Eros will pass approximately 16 million miles from earth, or about 70 lunar distances (the distance from the moon to the earth). Therefore, 433 Eros cannot really hit earth at all: it's just a hoax otherwise.

Join in the Eros fun! Submit your images to Which reminds us...Transit of Venus 2012 is in June!

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