Discovered on February 11th, 2014 by Mt. Lemmon Survey, NearEarth Asteroid 2014 CU13, with an estimated diameter of an 80 story building (120260m) and traveling at 43,173 MPH / 19.31 (km/s), will be making its closest approach to Earth on Tuesday, March 11th, at 8 lunar distances away. However, astronomers are still unclear as to the exact orbit of the asteroid, which currently has an orbital Uncertainty Parameter U of 6* (MPC as of 20140304). Slooh is featuring 2014 CU13 in a live broadcast from its flagship observatory at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands on Sunday, March 9th at 7 PM PDT / 10 PM EDT / 02:00UTC (3/10) International times http://goo.gl/vcyVDy, in order to call attention to this asteroid so that amateur astronomers will help further pinpoint its orbit. The live image stream will be accompanied by discussions led by Paul Cox, Slooh Host and Observatory Director, along with special guest, Dr. Jose Luis Galache from the Minor Planet Center. Viewers can watch free on Slooh.com or by downloading the Slooh iPad app, and viewers can ask questions during the show by using hashtag #asteroid.
As of March 4th, there have been over 230 observations of 2014 CU13, including many from Slooh members, but that is not enough to accurately pinpoint its orbit. Slooh will be providing orbital data to the Minor Planet Center all week in order to improve the asteroid’s Uncertainty Parameter, and will highlight its progress throughout the week on Slooh.com in the Community News section. “Citizen astronomers” should tune into the show to learn how to track asteroids, either through Slooh’s robotic observatories or using their own equipment.
The program is a follow up to Slooh’s broadcast of asteroid 2000 EM26 on February 18th, which attracted worldwide media attention near the first anniversary of the Chelyabinsk impact in Russia, as Slooh tried and failed to image the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid as it made its closest approach to Earth. That asteroid, now nicknamed Moby Dick, has an Uncertainty Parameter of 9, and is effectively lost to astronomers as a result of insufficient follow up observations after its initial discovery to pinpoint its orbit.
“We are going to rally citizen astronomers to help us help the Minor Planet Center and NASA/JPL track these NearEarth Objects. As we’ve seen with Moby Dick, all the effort that went into its discovery is worthless unless followup observations are made to accurately determine their orbits for the future”, says Paul Cox. “And that’s exactly what Slooh Members are doing with NEA 2014 CU13 using Slooh’s robotic telescopes to accurately measure the precise position of this newly discovered asteroid. These observations have already helped reduce the uncertainty in its orbit, and establish better size estimates for this particular asteroid.”
Says Dr. Galache, “Discovering Near Earth Asteroids has become an automatic process for the survey telescopes, but discovery is just the beginning—there is so much science to do after that! Amateur astronomers with access to prolevel telescopes under dark skies are in a great position to learn more about an asteroid than just where it’s going”
*(based on Minor Planet Center Parameter U code system “0” being very small uncertainty and “9” extremely large uncertainty)