“The Beast”

I made my second broadcast with the Slooh team yesterday, this time a live show with the potentially hazardous asteroid 2014 HQ124, fondly known as the beast.

It was top fun and the Slooh guys had lined up some really informed experts to lend commentary to the event – its certainly worth watching through the near 70 mins of broadcast if you are interested in near earth objects. If you make it to the end, you will find me waffling on about my kit. Of course, having had almost no sleep in the run up, I was only semi-coherent, but you’ll get my drift!

All in all, a very good show and with an interesting rock plodding on by…

 

 

NASA Says ‘Thanks’

And I say ‘You’re Welcome!’

The supremely successful live feed of Asteroid 2012 DA14 which was broadcast throughout the night and culminated in a show on NASA TV attracted over 7 million views and was NASA’s most successful Webcast ever.

For my part, I streamed for around four hours continuously and by token of thanks the NASA Team sent me a certificate and goody bag. A lovely gesture and a great memento to celebrate a fantastic evening!

NASA Cert

NASA’s 2012 DA14 Broadcast

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.

NASA publishes first DA14 footage worldwide

The back story to this is funny! We had been rehearsing the broadcast for a week and every night it had been cloudy in Samford, and the Perth team had all sorts of technical issues that had them scratching their collective heads. So on the eve of the broadcast, and shortly after the Chelyabinsk meteorite smashed to Earth, NASA had seen nothing!

It was cloudy on the night too, but ever optimistic, I pointed the scope to where the scope would be if the clouds would part. And at around 10:30, the clouds did part sufficiently to locate and record the first ever video footage of 2012 DA14 coming towards us! It was a massive relief to everybody and NASA took the footage and went global with it – even if the rock were not seen again from Oz, we had enough to make a show!

Of course, the night came good, but up to that point the tension was unbelievable…