Follow Earth's Close Call with Asteroid on Your Smartphone

SkySafari Plus and Pro updates for iOS, Mac, Android offer a new first in mobile computing

San Francisco, CA, February 12th, 2013 - On Friday, February 15th, a 180,000-ton asteroid named 2012 DA14 will fly past the Earth. Whizzing by just 17,200 miles away, this 50-meter space rock will come closer than our orbiting geosynchronous communication satellites. Although there is no chance of a collision, this passage of 2012 DA14 by the Earth is a record close approach for an object of this size.

To let anyone precisely track 2012 DA14, award-winning app developer Southern Stars is releasing an update to its SkySafari Plus and Pro apps for iOS, Mac OS X, and Android. These app updates are a new first in mobile computing, and a solution to an unusual technical challenge. Because the Earth's gravity affects the asteroid's orbit so severely, most desktop planetarium programs - and all other mobile apps - will completely fail to predict the asteroid's position correctly.

To solve this problem, Southern Stars consulted with solar system dynamics experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. With JPL's help, SkySafari has become the first mobile app with a full-blown solar system orbit integrator built in*. Southern Stars founder Tim DeBenedictis explains, "We're not just playing back the NASA video. The iPhone is actually doing the math live in real time."

The asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye, but amateur astronomers with larger backyard telescopes should be able to catch a glimpse through clear, dark skies. SkySafari Plus and Pro were the first mobile apps to offer built-in telescope control, using Southern Stars's wireless SkyFi device, awarded Best of Show at MacWorld 2010; or via SkyWire - the world's first Apple-approved serial cable for iOS devices.

Southern Stars will offer the new app updates to SkySafari Plus and Pro on the iTunes Store and Google Play with sale prices up to 30% off. The sale begins February 14th, 2013 - one day before the 2012 DA14 flyby - and will continue through Sunday, February 17th. The updates will be free for current SkySafari Plus and Pro owners.

Amateur astronomers wanting to observe the 2012 DA14 flyby with SkySafari should consider the Pro version, because its much larger star database will make it far easier to find the faint asteroid moving across background star fields. But either the Plus or Pro version will simulate the asteroid's flyby accurately, as seen from any place on Earth - or from 2012 DA14 itself!

To download SkySafari Plus, use the following links:

To download SkySafari Pro, use the following links:

Please note: the basic version of SkySafari does not support the new asteroid/comet orbit integrator. This new feature is exclusive to SkySafari Plus and Pro.

For details on how to simulate the flyby using SkySafari Plus and Pro, see this video created by Southern Stars.

(*) This is a statement of fact only, and does not imply any official endorsement by NASA or JPL of any Southern Stars products.
Although JPL technical staff provided guidance in its development, the feature described in this paragraph is the original work of Southern Stars Group, LLC.

About Southern Stars Group, LLC

Southern Stars Group, LLC is a world leader in mobile applications for astronomy, and has been developing planetarium software since 1993. In 2009, Southern Stars developed SkyFi, the first wireless iPhone-based solution for telescope control. That product, and the first version of the SkySafari iPhone app, won a MacWorld 2010 Best of Show award. Southern Stars was the also the first company to ship a Made-for-iPad serial cable for iOS devices (SkyWire). To date, Southern Stars' iPhone apps have been downloaded more than 2 million times, and have earned five-star reviews on the app store and by independent reviewers.

In 2012, Southern Stars successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign to develop and launch its own satellite, called SkyCube. Due for launch in 2013, SkyCube will let smartphone users broadcast messages and take pictures from orbit.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Southern Stars Group, LLC has more than three decades of collective experience in developing astronomical software, telescope control systems, and instrumentation.

Tim DeBenedictis
+1 (415) 671-6254

The following Images and video are associated with this release and may be reused freely with proper attribution.
Credit and copyright: Southern Stars Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO (6 minutes): SkySafari Pro shows the flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 from three different angles,
including the point of view of the asteroid itself.

Left: SkySafari Pro plots the path of near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 across the northern sky as seen from San Francisco on Feburary 15th, 2013.
Right: the flyby seen from asteroid 2012 DA14, looking back at Earth and its orbiting geosynchronous satellites, simulated with SkySafari Plus.

Available for iOS, Mac OS X, and Android, SkySafari Plus and Pro are the first and only mobile apps able to simulate such events correctly,
using a brand new orbit integrator developed with assistance from solar system dynamics experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.