On August 26, the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona discovered a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) that now has the designation 2012 QG42. This space rock measures approximately 1,000 feet (300 meters) across.
Astronomers classify any asteroid as a PHA if it has a diameter greater than 100 meters and approaches to within 0.05 astronomical units (4.65 million miles [7.5 million kilometers]) of Earth. One astronomical unit equals the average Earth-Sun distance, about 93 million miles (149.7 million km).
This asteroid meets both criteria for being a PHA because on September 14 at 5h10m UT (9:10 a.m. EDT), it will pass 1.74 million miles (2.8 million km) from Earth. That distance equates to only 7.43 times the average distance between our planet and the Moon.
During the next few days of its near-Earth encounter, 2012 QG42 will brighten enough so that amateur astronomers can spot it through 10-inch or larger telescopes from a dark site. But you may not have that size scope or be able to get to a proper location. Never fear! The Internet is here.
The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 will host a free, real-time online broadcast of the asteroid starting today (September 12) at 22h UT (September 13 at 2 a.m. EDT). Members will be imaging the asteroid through a 17-inch telescope. To view the passage, just log in to the Project’s Web TV page at www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv.
And you’ll find more information about the broadcast and the organization online at www.virtualtelescope.eu/2012/08/29/asteroid-2012-qg42-close-encounter.