When I heard of the NEO 2012 DA14 last year, I knew it was going to be a special object. This 40m rock would be the closest ‘miss’ that had ever been discovered and would be coming so close, it would pass between us and our outer satellites and would have exploded with the power of over 200 Hiroshima bombs had it hit the Earth! And it would be a uniquely antipodean event too – traveling from South to North, its approach would only be visible from Australasia.
I had already prepared myself to capture the event but I was quite unprepared when NASA came metaphorically knocking at the door. The bush fires had taken Australia’s principle professional observatory at Siding Spring offline and they were looking for someone on the East coast with the knowledge and equipment to broadcast the event to their global audience. After some research, they had made a shortlist of one; me!
The lead up to the event was tense, with appalling weather spoiling two rehearsals with the team at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in California. On the evening of the event things were looking grim as the clouds persisted. At 10:30 a break in the clouds allowed me to get the first ever video footage of the object coming towards us and NASA were delighted! They were on the phone to me within moments of my sending the clip and straight away they published it to news agencies across the globe. By 2am on Saturday the clouds parted and allowed me nearly three solid hours of broadcast live on NASA TV and as dawn came, I handed the baton to a Perth based observatory to continue.
The gravitas of the occasion had only been added to by the meteor strike in Russia the day before; by the morning I had nearly half a million viewers watching on line, and by the end of the broadcast nearly 7 million had tuned in for at least part of the show which was one of their most viewed live broadcasts in recent years and certainly their best ever webcast.