Monday, January 26, 2015

Asteroid (357439) 2004 BL86 close approach on Australia Day

UPDATE: 09:30pm Local Time. The weather is not good, the sky has cleared but the Humidity is up to 88% from 87% in the past 10 mins. So the observatory can't open yet!!! Need a nice gust of drier air from the south ;-)

Its been a big month for comets but today all eyes turn to the monster asteroid (357439) 2004 BL86 which makes its closest approach to earth this decade.

Its not every day you get a binocular visible asteroid streak across the night sky. 2004 BL86 has been approaching from the south and has been tracked this week at -71 degrees declination where it was Magnitude 17 and will brighten tonight and in the early morning to magnitude 9 as it passes near Jupiter and Sirius.

I captured the approaching asteroid for the OSIRIS-REx Target Asteroids Mission and collected some astrometry and photometry on Jan 19th.

120 Sec image on T27 at 0.53 arsec/pixel Jan 19th 2015 (c) P.Lake

Again on the 25th of January, one day out, you can see that it is speeding up and travelling very fast with reference to the background stars. You can see the asteroid streaked in this 30 sec image.

30 Sec image on T12 at 3.5 arcsecs/pixel Jan 25th 2015 (c) P.Lake

I will be obtaining further data tonight (weather permitting) just before its closest approach at 3 lunar distances. It will be travelling at 160 arcsecs per minute at closest approach around 2am. I won't be up that late. I will upload an animation of the footage compiled into a nice video of its approach.


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