Close Encounter Of A Remote Kind

Sunday, 10 September, 2000

The first sequence of images taken of a 'near miss' space rock that zoomed past Earth this week were taken by an Australian remotely controlled telescope at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst.

The telescope was operated by remote control via the internet to take 21 pictures of the 1 km-wide asteroid over a 30 minute timeframe as it moved through space at 30 km/sec.

The images were stacked on top of each other to show the object streaking across space and were loaded onto CSU's website. The pictures caught the attention of astronomers and comet-watchers in the US who contacted CSU for permission to publish the images on other websites and to obtain the detailed observational data.

The asteroid, known by researchers as 2000 QW7, was a distance of 12 times further from Earth than the moon, which is too close in astronomical terms. If the asteroid had hit Earth, its force would have been equivalent to about 1000 Bn Hiroshima bombs going off at the same time. The asteroid would have left a crater 250 km in diameter and injected enough dust and rubbish into the atmosphere to block out the sun.

This was the seventh new near-Earth asteroid tracked this year but by far, the biggest.

The Charles Sturt University's Remote Telescope Project is a pilot education program for Year 5 and 6 primary school students, which allows students in Australia and anywhere in the world to navigate the southern sky from home or school computers.

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