At around 9PM Eastern Time tonight, February 17th, a live broadcast will take place of an asteroid flyby. Near-Earth asteroid 2000 EM26, estimated to measure the size of three football fields, is scheduled to closely brush earth, and the Slooh Space Camera will be providing a live webcast of the flyby event.
Slooh is a robotic telescope service that was created in 2002, and became publicly available in 2004. It was the first live astronomical platform of its kind to provide "live" web telescope viewing. Indeed, Slooh has a patent on their image processing methodology.
In a recent statement, Slooh's technical and research director, Paul Cox, shared this about some of the work Slooh does: "We continue to discover these potentially hazardous asteroids -- sometimes only days before they make their close approaches to Earth."
Interestingly enough, tonight's scheduled asteroid flyby arrives almost exactly one year after the February 2013 explosion of a meteor over Russia last year. Last year's near-Earth object [NEO] grazed our planet over the Ural Mountain region, then quickly became a superbolide, before exploding in an outburst above Chelyabinsk, Russia. Pieces of that meteor have now became incorporated into the design of some 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics gold medals.
Cox emphasized the importance of Slooh's asteroid research campaign, citing how it is gaining momentum: "...Slooh members [are] using the Slooh robotic telescopes to monitor this huge population of potentially hazardous space rocks. We need to find them [NEOs] before they find us!"
There is no threat of tonight's asteroid, NEO 2000 EM26, hitting earth, as it whizzes by at the approximate speed of 27,000 mph. Instead, at the asteroid's closest approach, it will be about 8.8 lunar distances from the Earth.
Nonetheless, Slooh astronomer Bob Berman added: "On a practical level, a previously-unknown, undiscovered asteroid seems to hit our planet and cause damage or injury once a century or so, as we witnessed on June 20, 1908 and February 15, 2013... [T]he ongoing threat, and the fact that biosphere-altering events remain a real if small annual possibility, suggests that discovering and tracking all NEOs, as well as setting up contingency plans for deflecting them on short notice should the need arise, would be a wise use of resources."
Meanwhile, you can catch the live Slooh webcast at the Slooh website here, where you can participate via the hashtag #asteroid, should you have any queries to post. Also, the website Space.com will be broadcasting the fly-by on their website as well. Click here for the Space.com webcast of tonight's asteroid flyby.