Closest approach will be at about 18.00, and the object should be visible in binoculars as it speeds past the Earth, with a maximum magnitude of between 7 and 7.5. Since it will be so close, and moving so fast, predictions need to be based on your own location, not geocentric. I'm very grateful to Dr Tolis Christou of Armagh Observatory who has generated an ephemeris for Belfast, giving the RA, Dec, Azimuth, Elevation and magnitude of 2012 DA14 from Belfast ( 54.6000° N, 5.9167° W) for the night of the 15th to the 16th of February 2013 every 5 min. The asteroid rises at 20:00 UT in Virgo, and will move rapidly Northwards through Coma, Canes Venatici, Ursa Major and Draco during its period of best visibility from here. It will remain brighter than mag 10 until 22:20 UT. At that time its altitude is 53 deg.
This ephemeris is too long and detailed to include here, but I will forward the details to anyone on request. It should be possible to record its motion with a time exposure on a digital camera with a reasonable zoom lens, and set to a high ISO setting.
This will be the brightest-ever NEO to be observed approaching the vicinity of our planet (<0.1 AU). It is predicted to be 30 times brighter and more than 150 times more massive than the next largest known object to approach as close or closer to our planet in recent years: that one was 2012 MD.
(Newly added info regarding using Heavens-above.) Since the asteroid is moving so fast, the H-A site only gives details of the position every half-hour on Feb 15. But you can easily interpolate from those positions. The easiest way to find it will be to pick an easily identifiable spot in the sky, using a good star chart, through which the asteroid will pass when it is still fairly bright. Note when it will pass through that region of the sky. Train your binoculars or wide-field telescope on that area a few minutes before it is due, preferably while you are in a comfortable position to avoid strain, and then wait for the asteroid to appear as a moving point of light. It will be moving almost straight upwards when it first appears above our Eastern horizon, so you are unlikely to confuse it with anything else. If you can mount your binoculars on a tripod which allows you to pan smoothly upwards, that would be handy. But remember if you 'lose' the object for more than a minute in your field of view, you will find it hard to pick it up again!
Astronomy: Our place in the Universe
Looking to the sky for the first time you may feel overwhelmed and confused by the spectacle of thousands of stars above your head. Astronomy is a great gateway science that can inspire you to do great things! Participants will gain enjoyment from exploring the wonders of the night sky. The topics covered include Greek mythology, Egyptian and Babylonian cosmology, Astrobiology, Quantum Physics, Terrestrial and Jovian planets and Solar System to help us understand our place in the cosmos. This is a great way for the community to come together and take a fresh look at our night sky.....it belongs to us all. No experience necessary and questions encouraged!
Tutor: Terry Moseley, Time: 7.00pm - 9.00pm
Session 1: Tuesdays, 5 weeks; dates: 19th February 2013 – 19th March 2013
Location: Central Building.
Session 2: Tuesdays, 5 weeks. Time: 7.00pm - 9.00pm. Dates: 9th April 2013 – 7th May 2013. Location: Central Building
There will also be a daytime visit to Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, provisionally on 17 May.
Full details and booking at: http://www.stran.ac.uk/informationabout/courses/professionaldevelopmentlifelonglearning/
The Greenwood Players and the Armagh Observatory are presenting in the Armagh Observatory from 22nd to 24th February 2013 the first performance on the island of Ireland of the play "The Life of Galileo" by Bertolt Brecht in a new version by David Hare.
The story of the Life of Galileo and its central drama of the conflict between science, religion and authority is one that resonates today. As remarked by Ian McDonald, author and Executive Producer with the Greenwood Players, "The Life of Galileo" is a story that needs retelling every generation, especially in a 21st century when we seem to be moving away from science to an authority and belief-based worldview.
There will be five performances of the play: two matinees at 2.00pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th February, and three evening performances at 7.00pm on each of 22nd, 23rd and 24th February. Tickets, which are strictly limited, cost 12 pounds and are available from 14th January 2013 at http://galileoattheobservatory.eventbrite.co.uk/.
For more information, see: http://star.arm.ac.uk/press/2013/galileo/