Near miss Asteroid disappoints stargazers over Gloucestershire skies
STARGAZERS across Gloucestershire hoping to catch a rare glimpse of the closest asteroid to pass the Earth in 40 years were left disappointed last night.
Near Earth Asteroids are seldom seen in our skies so when space experts announced NEO-2012DA14 was to come within 17,000 miles of Earth at around 7.20pm last night, excitement began to build.
That was fuelled by images flashing across our TV screens of a Russian Meteorite the size of a double-decker bus exploding in the Ural Mountains, injuring more than 1000 people.
But last night's historic event was hidden behind a veil of thick cloud to leave many sky watchers who had camped out on Cleeve Hill and other county observation points disappointed.
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John Fletcher was keeping a close eye on the skies from the Mount Tuffley Observatory.
He was out until 2am this morning hoping to see the asteroid, said to be roughly the size of an Olympic size swimming pool.
"I had my robotic telescope running with a list of asteroids that are closer to us than our Sun," he said.
"There are many Near Earth Asteroids (NEO) and I had hoped for a clear patch in the clouds but there was nothing to see, sadly.
"It was total cloud from 6pm and that was still the same at 2am.
"It was rather a shame as NEO's don't come that close very often, only about every 40 years or so.
"If this one had hit the Earth directly it would have excavated a one mile wide crater.
"The skies were just the same back on the day of the 1999 total eclipse of the Sun down in Cornwall. Total cloud.
"The Russian Meteorite that exploded over Russia was coincidental to have occurred on the same day as the close pass by of NEO - 2012 DA14."
To visit John's astronomy website visit http://www.jfmto.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk.