Asteroid Flyby | Did You Miss It?

Asteroid 2004 BL86 traveled by Earth January 26, 2015. It was about 3x farther from Earth than our Moon. There was no danger. It was an interesting event. It happened during the daylight hours for me. It was also clouded over. There was no chance to see it with my own equipment. So, I visited an online broadcast from Europe. The Virtual Telescope Project successfully tracked it.

The event was hosted by Gian Masi, astrophysicist and science communicator. They posted a 28 minute YouTube video. Broken clouds interrupted the view at times. Their telescope tracked the asteroid at the center of the window. A 10 second time exposure captured an image. Each 15 seconds, a new image was scanned over the old one. The asteroid remains centered. The star field moves slightly. I extracted a brief clip from one cloud-free interval if you don’t want to watch the entire video. This object was moving very fast. It traveled the equivalent of 5 Moon diameters each hour.

Fellow blogger, Alex Autin, posted on …Things I Love more exciting information about this asteroid. It has a moon! Visit her site. If you like astronomy, follow her blog. Radar images from the 230-foot-wide NASA Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, revealed the moon to be about 230 feet wide. The asteroid is about 1100 feet wide. The full video is on her site or here at the NASA JPL YouTube channel.

NASA Deep Space Network


11 thoughts on “Asteroid Flyby | Did You Miss It?

  1. Excellent post Jim, and great work on the video! I’m impressed (and excited!) at how well astronomical events are covered by social media making it very possible to witness and take part in the event even though conditions wherever you may be aren’t exactly the best. There’s also something very awesome in knowing you’re sharing this event with thousands of people around the world. Two of my favorite things about astronomy are moons and asteroids. So, for me, Asteroid 2004 BL86 was super exciting….and super surprising!

    Thanks much for the mention, it’s very appreciated!

    • Moons and asteroids…you got the daily double!

      I agree about the coverage. I remember years ago trying to get online to see coverage of somethings. If you weren’t early in line, you couldn’t get in. Not enough bandwidth to handle the viewers. Today, that seems less of a problem.

      We can learn so much if we only take advantage of the opportunities.

  2. In some ways, mankind has come a long way from ignorance in just a short time. It was only five centuries ago that Copernicus demonstrated the truth, that the Earth was not the center of the universe and that other planets also circled the sun. Now of course scientists know about asteroids and comets and that they have played important roles in the development of our planet and of the life on it.

    Shortly before my retirement from my civilian job I got into a discussion at work with some colleagues about asteroid impacts and was derided by one for thinking it was even a possibility. This guy didn’t believe in a flat earth exactly, but he was definitely ignorant about the reality of the physical universe. It’s not enough that science knows things – education is still a challenge. It might be getting worse, as religion increasingly pervades politics.

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