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MANILA, Philippines - While most Filipinos were fast asleep, an asteroid half the size of a football field flew past the earth.
Dubbed 2012 DA14, the asteroid, measuring 45 meters in diameter, travelled 27,000 km above the earth at the time of closest approach at about 2:25 pm EST, according to NASA.
It was the first time that an asteroid of its size came this close to earth.
While most of us were deep in slumber, Mark Vornhusen, senior vice president of Meteomedia Philippines -- owner of weather.com.ph -- trooped to Greenbelt at about 3:30 am Saturday, February 16, to set up his camera and take his chances at capturing images of the historic event.
With his camera pointed towards the Leo constellation, Vornhusen took about 300 photographs of the fast-moving asteroid, which he turned into an animation.
He didn't expect to catch such vivid images of 2012 DA14, Vornhusen said, given Makati's location. But he did.
View the closest asteroid approach in recent history here:
"I was surprised to catch the asteroid. It was bright, clearly visible from the camera," Vornhusen told Rappler.
"Every 2 seconds, I took an image. It was challenging to take a sharp image. I could not expose for a long time because it moved so fast," he added.
Dr Custer Deocaris, professor of astrobiology and head of the Office of Space Science Innovation and Cooperation at the Rizal Technological University, said he hopes the event could push Filipinos to be more aware of the space that surrounds us.
"We hope this will open appreciation to everyone, especially kids, regarding astronomy. If we can get kids engaged with astronomy, it would help promote science and encourage more people to be scientists," Deocaris said.
Just a day before the asteroid fly-by, another meteor struck Russia, hurting close to 1,000 people.
Deocaris said it is important for everyone to be more aware of the celestial objects hovering around us so as not to cause unnecessary panic about doomsday scenarios.
"This is significant because there is a threat. There is always the possibility that an asteroid will hit the earth. We have to remember that there are over 4,000 asteroids hovering above the earth. We need to learn more about them so it does not take us by surprise when things like this happen," he said, pointing out that technology to counter future asteroid attacks are already in the works.
One such example is a defense system that uses the sun to vaporize asteroids. - Rappler.com