It’s the closest flyby on record, the range in between the planet’s surface and orbiting communication satellites. While there is no chance asteroid 2012 DA14 will hit the planet this time, it’s a great opportunity to learn about these mysterious rocks and to help the public understand scientists’ fascination with them. Speakers will even explain the relationship between asteroids and meteors like the one that hit Russia today.

That’s why UCF Professor and asteroid expert Humberto Campins got together a few of his friends to host a free viewing party for the public. Those friends will help attendees learn all they ever wanted to know about asteroids. Those present also will be able to see the asteroid buzz the planet via live feeds from international partners as well as animation of what is happening – assuming weather cooperates.

UCF is working with partners in Spain and with JPL to bring various perspectives of the flyby.

Speakers include Dr. Michael F. A’Hearn, the scientist who led NASA’s Deep Impact mission, which launched the first man-made object into the nucleus of a comet. He will talk about deflecting dangerous asteroids. Dr. Harold Reitsema, a planetary scientist who is part of the B612 Foundation’s private effort to launch a telescope that will locate and track asteroids that could hit Earth, will talk about why private industry is focusing on asteroids. Every NASA rover that’s been sent to Mars, including the current Curiosity Rover, has included equipmentUCF Professor Dan Britt designed to help determine the makeup of rocks found on the planet. Britt will talk about the relationship between asteroids and meteorites. Campins will talk about NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to bring back samples from an asteroid. He also will discuss other nation’s efforts to do the same. Finally, Ray Lugo, the new director of the Florida Space Institute, will moderate a panel discussion and commentary during the closest encounter between the asteroid and the planet estimate to happen between 2:20 and 2:30 p.m.

And because it is a viewing party, the afternoon will get started with a science demonstration – the creation of an asteroid you can eat. Who says science is boring?

The Asteroid Encounter at UCF runs from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom at the Student Union on the main campus.

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