Astronomer Intrigued By Meteor, Asteroid - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Astronomer Intrigued By Meteor, Asteroid

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By Adam Ghassemi

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – To the naked eye, the sky can seem boring. But William Teets has the ability to see further.

"It can see all the planets in our solar system. We can see nebulae in our galaxy that are thousands of light years away," Teets said Friday while adjusting the Seyfert Telescope at Vanderbilt's Dyer Observatory.

Teets says he moved the telescope Thursday night in hopes of seeing the 150ft. wide "2012 DA12" asteroid passing by, but it was too faint.

Friday morning he woke to learn a meteor going 33,000 mph exploded 20 miles over central Russia.

The blast, estimated to be as strong as hundreds of thousands of tons of TNT, injured at least 1,100 people and destroyed buildings.

With no warning, and almost endless sky, Teets says it's nearly impossible for scientists and computers to always be on constant watch.

"The sky is so big that it's hard to be able to search as much of it as you can to look for these," he said.

2012 DA12 passed by earth Friday afternoon local time without any issues, but came within 17,200 miles, closer than television satellites. Scientists say the two events are not related.

"It's just one of the largest ones we've seen come very close to the earth since active monitoring of the skies began," Teets added.

The two events may be coincidences, but Teets says if there ever was a major impact what happened in Russia is only ripple of what it would look like.

"You wouldn't want to be anywhere near the impact area because it would leave a sizable crater maybe a kilometer across," he said.

Friday a TEMA spokesperson said the agency makes lists of possible disasters, both likely and unlikely. He said space debris isn't even included on the unlikely list, but if it did happen here, they'd respond to it like any other emergency.

Teets tells us there is an even bigger asteroid on the horizon. Some astronomers are already buzzing about the "Comet of the Century" expected in November 2013. He says that could be as bright as a full moon and visible with the naked eye.


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