All eyes on our observatory

Gingin Observatory astronomers Rick Tonello, Paul Wood and Auriol Heary .
Gingin Observatory astronomers Rick Tonello, Paul Wood and Auriol Heary .

The closely tracked 45m asteroid ” dubbed the 2012 DA 14 ” whizzed 27,000km above us on February 15 between 1.15am and 4am WST.

Live images from a telescope at the Gingin Observatory showed the asteroid moving against a backdrop of black sky and streamed to NASA TV and news-outlets across the world.

Gingin astronomer Auriol Heary said NASA had asked Gingin Observatory to provide a live stream of the asteroid.

‘Providing NASA with a live feed was exciting and challenging; attributes on which astronomers thrive,’ she said.

‘Rick Tonello, Paul Wood and I made the perfect team with each of us having all the skills necessary to achieve a positive outcome but with each also having a speciality area. Rick worked the telescope and Paul is our IT specialist and my area is asteroid research.’

Ms Heary said the object’s speed and proximity made it a challenge to track, because the telescopes had to be aimed accurately or her team risked missing it.

‘Most of the night was spent talking on the phone to NASA and watching the little dot move across the screen and moving the telescope to keep up with it.’

Observatory owner Bella Wunderlin said it was exciting Gingin was the primary source in the world for transmitting a live feed of the asteroid.

‘We wanted to keep it all quiet not really realising that it was going to be an international event and we would be published everywhere,’ she said.

‘It was a shock to find out that 700,000 people were watching it alone in the USA.’