Today's Asteroid Flyby Was Pretty Tame (Especially Relative to That Crazy Meteor in Russia)

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Just a few pixels on a screen, moving slowly

asteroidflyby.jpg

When I tuned into NASA's livestream of the asteroid 2012 DA14's closest approach to earth, I'm not sure what I expected. What I saw was this: a few pixels moving up a screen. It looked like a screenshot from Pong. And that was it. The approach came and went (happily!).

Perhaps I have been conditioned by the Hubble Space Telescope and the movie Armageddon to expect a lot from space, visually speaking. The thing is, though: This is how a lot astronomy looks. Grainy images, tiny changes tracked through hard work and almost miraculous engineering. The stunning visual is the exception not the rule.


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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