Asteroids

NASA Spacecraft Gets Up Close With An Asteroid That Could One Day Collide With Earth

NASA Spacecraft Gets Up Close With An Asteroid That Could One Day Collide With Earth

Kathryn Harriss, University of Kent

NASA’s spacecraft OSIRIS-REx has finally reached the asteroid 101955 Bennu – which may be on collision course with the Earth – after travelling for just over two years since its launch in September 2016. This mission, which will bring grains back for us to study on Earth, is latest to return asteroid samples to Earth after the Japanese Space Agency’s missions Hayabusa 1 and 2 and StarDust. The data will help unveil more about the origins of the solar system and how to protect the Earth from possible asteroid impact.

The spacecraft will spend the next year completing a detailed survey of the surface of Bennu (492 metres in diameter) – including locating the most suitable landing sites. Once a site is selected, the spacecraft will land for about five seconds to collect a sample of the surface material using a burst of nitrogen gas to liberate material from the surface into the sampler head.

The spacecraft has enough gas to attempt three sample collections from the surface. This will hopefully provide a sample of between 60g and 2,000g of surface regolith material (the layer of material covering solid rock). It will start heading back to Earth in 2021 – getting here in 2023.

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaching the asteroid Bennu. NASA




 

Asteroids are material left over from the early solar system, which means they offer a unique look into its early composition. Bennu orbits the sun between the Earth and Mars. Its composition is of particular interest as we already know it is rich in carbon. This means it may contain organic materials that have remained unaltered since the formation of the solar system. It is not impossible that asteroids like it delivered the building blocks of life to the early Earth – the mission could help us investigate this theory.

Though sample return is a major and complex part of this mission, OSIRIS-REx will study other aspects of the asteroid too. During the survey of the surface the spacecraft will also be looking out for plumes and natural satellites orbiting the body. Instruments on board will allow enable us to identify different chemicals on it. This will help finding the most interesting and richest sample sites to a resolution of about two metres.

Secret threat

The asteroid Bennu is of interest to Earth for another reason. Bennu may be on collision course with Earth in the future. It is theorised from the study of the orbit of Bennu that gravity interaction between the two bodies during a close approach to Earth in 2060 (750,000km) will slightly alter its course. This means that there is a cumulative one in 2,700 chance of an Earth impact between 2175 and 2199.




 

OSIRIS-REx may be able to aid in preventing such events. One of the thing it will measure is the body’s “Yarkovsky acceleration”. This effect is a force that acts on a rotating body in space, caused by the uneven release of heat from the surface of the asteroid. Once this is known, it will be possible to investigate whether we could use this force to change the orbit of Bennu and other threatening asteroids. For example, it may be possible to use solar radiation to heat up one side of the rock more than the other – changing its rotation and the orbit trajectory.

The next two years is going to be an exciting one for small body research. This mission will provide the most detailed analysis of carbon rich asteroids and will provide answers about the evolution of the solar system and our own planet. Analysis of the regolith will also tell us more about the effects of space weathering on the surface of small bodies from harsh solar radiation.

The collection method for the mission is called “Touch and Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism”. And touch and go is exactly what the spacecraft must achieve, rather than a full landing. This will be extremely difficult and we will have to wait a year to see if the new method is successful. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it all goes according to plan.The Conversation

Kathryn Harriss, Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Planetary Science, University of Kent

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Japan's Rovers Have Sent More Images From The Surface Of Asteroid Ryugu

Japan’s Rovers Have Sent More Images From The Surface Of Asteroid Ryugu

Just last week Japan successfully landed the first rovers on an Asteroid and on day one they were sending back some stunning images.

Now, the two rovers Rover-1A and 2B (known together is MINERVA II) have delivered new images with a remarkable amount of detail.

“The MINERVA-II1 rovers were deployed on September 21 to explore the surface of asteroid Ryugu. Here is the second report on their activities, following our preliminary article at the start of this week. We end this report with a video taken by one of the rovers that shows the Sun moving across the sky as seen from the surface of Ryugu. Please take a moment to enjoy “standing” on this new world.”

Rover-1B hop

More Images From The Surface Of Asteroid Ryugu

Images taken by Rover-1B. September 23, 2018: confirmation of Rover-1B hop.
Observation time (JST): (Left) 2018-09-23 09:50, (Center) 2018-09-23 09:55, (Right) 2018-09-23 10:00




 

Image captured immediately before hop of Rover-1B

September 23, 2018: image captured immediately before hop of Rover-1B. 2018-9-23 09:46 (JST).
(Image credit: JAXA)

Surface image from Rover-1B after landing

ryugu

September 23, 2018 at 10:10 JST: surface image from Rover-1B after landing
(Image credit: JAXA)




 

Surface image taken from Rover-1A

Ryugu surface

September 23, 2018 at 09:43 JST: surface image taken from Rover-1A
(Image credit: JAXA)

Rover-1A captured the shadow of its own antenna and pin

September 23, 2018 at 09:48 JST: surface image taken from Rover-1A. MINERVA-II1 successfully captured the shadow of its own antenna and pin.




 

Rover-1B successfully shot a movie

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Japan Reveals First Images Taken By Asteroid Rovers-3

Japan Reveals First Images Taken By Asteroid Rovers

Japan landed two rovers on an asteroid known as Ryugu on Friday, and we’re now receiving images from the mission.

The first image was sent back to Earth at roughly 1:08 p.m. on Friday the 21st. This image from Rover 1A shows both the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft and asteroid Ryugu.

Japan Reveals First Images Taken By Asteroid Rovers-2

Image captured by Rover-1A on September 21 at around 13:08 JST. This is a color image taken immediately after separation from the spacecraft. Hayabusa2 is at the top and the surface of Ryugu is bottom. The image is blurred because the shot was taken while the rover was rotating. (Image credit: JAXA)




 

Although the image itself is grainy, it still marks a significant accomplishment as noted by Tetsuo Yoshimitsu a member of the Hayabusa-2 team, “Although I was disappointed with the blurred image that first came from the rover, it was good to be able to capture this shot,”

Rover 1B then sent back the next image that shows the rocky surface of Ryugu.

Japan Reveals First Images Taken By Asteroid Rovers-1

Image captured by Rover-1B on September 21 at around 13:07 JST. This color image was taken immediately after separation from the spacecraft. The surface of Ryugu is in the lower right. The coloured blur in the top left is due to the reflection of sunlight when the image was taken. (Image credit: JAXA)




 

The third image, sent back on Saturday September 22nd, is much more dramatic than the first two as it contains a lens flare from the sun (like you’d see in a J.J. Abrams movie).

Japan Reveals First Images Taken By Asteroid Rovers-3

Image captured by Rover-1A on September 22 at around 11:44 JST. Color image captured while moving (during a hop) on the surface of Ryugu. The left-half of the image is the asteroid surface. The bright white region is due to sunlight.
(Image credit: JAXA).




 

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Japan Has Successfully Landed The First Ever Rovers On An Asteroid

Japan Has Successfully Landed The First Ever Rovers On An Asteroid

Japan sent two rovers to the surface of an asteroid and they have landed successfully which marks a significant moment in the history of our progress into the cosmos.

Two tiny rovers designed to hop across an asteroid (each weighing in at about 2 pounds) were released from the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft on Friday September 21st. The rovers are known as 1A and 1B (while the pair are officially known as Minerva II-1). The descent to the asteroid lasted several hours.

The asteroid in question is known as Ryugu, which is about 1 kilometer (0.6) miles in diameter and is located about 280 million kilometers (175 million miles) from Earth.

“Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on the surface of Ryugu. They are in good condition and have transmitted photos & data. We also confirmed they are moving on the surface” stated the team on Twitter.


Read more: Japan Reveals First Images Taken By Asteroid Rovers





 

Each rover has cameras that will send back images from the asteroid and sensors that will measure the surface temperature. Images and data will be sent back to Hayabusa-2 and then relayed to earth.




 

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How I Discovered The Origins Of The Cigar-Shaped Alien 'Asteroid' 'Oumuamua'

How I Discovered The Origins Of The Cigar-Shaped Alien ‘Asteroid’ ‘Oumuamua’

Fabo Feng, University of Hertfordshire

One of the highlights of 2017 was the discovery of the first object in our solar system that definitely came from somewhere else. At first we thought it was a comet, then an asteroid, and now the International Astronomical Union has reclassified it as something new entirely, an interstellar object. The Hawaiian astronomers who discovered it aptly named it ‘Oumuamua, which means “a messenger from afar arriving first”, reflecting that this object is like a scout sent from the past to reach out to us.

Research has already helped us learn a lot about ‘Oumuamua’s rare cigar-like shape, what it’s made of (ice with a carbon-rich surface) and its highly unusual orbit, which will take it out of our solar system at a speed of around 26 km/s. The Breakthrough Listen research program has even investigated whether ‘Oumuamua is an alien space ship by scanning the object for life forms with the Green Bank Telescope. No intelligent signals have been identified so far, though further observations are planned.

Now my latest study gives us a glimpse of exactly where ‘Oumuamua may have come from. Reconstructing the object’s motion, my research suggests it probably came from the nearby “Pleiades moving group” of young stars, also known as the “Local Association”. It was likely ejected from its home solar system and sent out to travel interstellar space.

‘Oumuamua’s journey.




 

Based on ‘Oumuamua’s trajectory, I simulated how it has probably travelled through the galaxy and compared this to the motions of nearby stars. I found the object passed 109 stars within a distance of 16 light years. It went by five of these stars from in the Local Association (a group of young stars likely to have formed together), at a very slow speed relative to their movement.

It’s likely that when ‘Oumuamua was first ejected into space, it was travelling at just enough speed to break away from the gravity of its planet or star of origin, rather than at a much faster speed that would require even more energy. This means we’d expect the object to move relatively slowly at the start of its interstellar journey, and so its slow encounters with these five stars suggests it was ejected from one of the group.

When was it kicked out of its home?

Stars typically move with an average speed when they are formed and gradually change speed as they encounter very large objects, such as massive stars and molecular clouds and are affected by their gravity. Unlike most nearby stars, ‘Oumuamua moves very slowly compared to the average motion of the rest of the galaxy. This suggests it has only been travelling in interstellar space for a relatively short time and hasn’t had a chance to encounter many massive objects that would speed it up.

We also have evidence for ‘Oumuamua’s relatively young age from the colour of its surface. Outside of the protection of a star’s magnetic field, objects in space are bombarded with cosmic rays and interstellar dust and gas that gradually alter their surfaces and turn them very red in colour. But ‘Oumuamua has a more neutral colour, suggesting it has only been impacted by cosmic rays for, at most, hundreds of million years rather than for the billions of years that our solar system has existed.

How was it ejected?

‘Oumuamua is extremely elongated and has quite a different shape from other objects in our solar system. It was probably formed by a relatively high-energy process such as a collision, or ejected from a forming star. Most objects in the outer part of a planetary system are made more of ice and most objects in the inner regions are made more of rocks. Since ‘Oumuamua is a more even mix of ice and rocks, it’s likely it came from the middle part of a solar system, similar to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that features a mixture of icy and rocky asteroids.

Young visitor. ESO/M. Kornmesser, CC BY-SA




 

Perhaps the most plausible scenario is that ‘Oumuamua was ejected from a closely separated binary star system made of two stars closely orbiting each other. Objects orbiting one of the stars in a binary system will be strongly affected by the gravity of the other and so can be more easily ejected from the system than if it had just one star.

‘Oumuamua is probably just the tip of the iceberg. My research suggests there are likely more than 46m similar interstellar objects crossing the solar system every year. Most of them will be too far away for us to see with our current telescopes. But new telescopes and surveys should soon be able to find these interstellar messengers, which may be sending us important information about how stars and planets formed. Studying more objects like ‘Oumuamua will enable us to work out how much debris is left over from star formation and how much this adds to the mass of our galaxy.

The ConversationAnother reason to study these interstellar objects is that they could one day threaten to collide with the Earth and cause catastrophic events such as mass extinctions. The more we know, the better prepared we’ll be if that day ever comes.

Fabo Feng, Postdoctoral fellow, University of Hertfordshire

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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file-20171201-10169-lmrzbl

Metal Asteroid Psyche Is All Set For An Early Visit From NASA

Christian Schroeder, University of Stirling

Three times further away from the sun than the Earth lies an enormous lump of metal. Around 252km in diameter, the metallic “M-class” asteroid 16 Psyche is the target of NASA’s next mission to the belt of giant rocks that encircles the inner solar system. And the space agency now plans to visit it much sooner than originally planned.

Not only has the launch has been brought forward one year to the summer of 2022, but NASA’s scientists have also found a way to get to Psyche (pronounced SYKe-ee) much faster by taking a more efficient trajectory. The new route means the Psyche spacecraft won’t have to swing around the Earth to build up speed and won’t pass as close to the sun, so it needs less heat protection. It is now due to arrive in 2026, four years earlier than the original timeline.

The main aim of the journey to Psyshe is to gather more information about our own solar system. Psyche is one of many wandering members of the asteroid belt. Unlike the rest of its rocky neighbours, Psyche appears to be entirely made of nickel and iron, just like the Earth’s core. This, together with its size, has led to the theory that it might be the remains of the inside of a planet.

Asteroids are made up of primitive materials, leftovers from the dust cloud from which our solar system originated. Different types of asteroids resemble the various steps it took to form planets from this dust cloud. This means they reveal a lot about the origin and evolution of our solar system. Scientists think Psyche could be what’s left of an exposed metal core of a planet very similar to Earth.

We actually derive much of our knowledge about asteroids and the evolution of planets from the study of meteorites. Many asteroids and comets are primitive protoplanetary bodies accumulated from the same dust cloud our solar system originates from. As these protoplanetary bodies collide, gravity pulls them together into ever-larger bodies. Eventually these bodies become big and hot enough to partially melt, allowing heavy materials such as iron to sink to the core – and lighter material such as silicon to rise to the surface.

This process, known as differentiation, explains why Earth and other planets such as Mercury, Venus or Mars have an iron core and silicon-rich mantle and crust. The 16 Psyche asteroid is thought to be the leftover iron core of a planet stripped of its mantle in a giant collision.

But many questions regarding the formation of Psyche remain. How do you strip a planet of its mantle only leaving the core? Perhaps there is an alternative formation mechanism of an iron-rich body that does not involve differentiation? Psyche may once have been molten and, if so, did it cool from the inside out or from its surface to the core?

Also, Earth’s magnetic field comes from a liquid outer core circling around a solid inner core. Did these processes occur on Psyche and create a magnetic field? What elements other than iron accumulate in a core? And how does the surface geology of an iron body look compared to a rocky or icy body?

Avoiding collisions

There are other reasons for visiting asteroids. For one thing, possible collisions with Earth can have devastating effects. The impact of an 15km-wide asteroid approximately 65m years ago is linked to the extinction of the dinosaurs. And the explosion of the 30m-diameter Chelyabinsk asteroid over Russia in 2013 led to injuries and damage on the ground. We need to know as much as possible about the composition and physical make-up of asteroids to devise the best ways to defend our planet.

Asteroids also provide resources. Those containing water or other valuable materials may act as stepping stones for human exploration of the solar system. And asteroids crossing Earth’s orbit may become convenient targets for mining operations, providing materials that are running out on Earth and potentially taking environmentally detrimental extraction methods off Earth. Companies including Planetary Resources and countries like Luxembourg have already started to pursue these ideas in earnest.

The Psyche spacecraft will carry four instruments to gather as much information about the asteroid as it can: a camera, a gamma-ray spectrometer to record what chemical elements are there, a magnetometer, and a radio gravity experiment. The data these devices collect should help us work out if Psyche is the frozen core of a former planet or simply a lump of unmelted metal. If it is a core, then it might help us determine exactly what’s at the centre of our own planet.

The ConversationLindy Elkins-Tanton, the lead scientist of the mission, probably summarised it best: “We learn about inner space by visiting outer space”.

Christian Schroeder, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science and Planetary Exploration, University of Stirling

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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NASA's Asteroid Defence Mission Moves Into Design Phase

NASA’s Asteroid Defence Mission Moves Into Design Phase

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is no longer a concept. It’s now moving into a design phase, which could make it the first ever demonstration of asteroid deflection.

“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking the asteroid to shift its orbit — to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”

An asteroid known as Didymos will be DART’s first target. It makes a distant approach to Earth in October 2022, and then again in 2024. Didymos is greek for “twin”, aptly named as the asteroid is a binary system of two bodies: Didymos A, about one-half mile (780 meters) in size, and a smaller asteroid orbiting it called Didymos B, about 530 feet (160 meters). DART’s target will be the smaller of the two asteroids.



DART will achieve kinetic impact with Didymos at a speed of approximately 6 km/s, guided by it’s onboard cameras. The hope is that, “The collision will change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of one percent, enough to be measured using telescopes on Earth.”

DART is powered by theNASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C), it’s a highly advanced system that will decrease the cost of the launch vehicle for leaving Earth. It was previously used on the Dawn spacecraft propulsion system and was developed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

aida-mission-concept

Schematic of the AIDA mission concept shows ESA’s AIM spacecraft in orbit about the binary asteroid (65803) Didymos. AIM would arrive several months before NASA’s DART would impact Didymos’ smaller companion. Post-impact observations from both the AIM spacecraft and Earth-based planetary radar would, in turn, measure the change in the moonlet’s orbit about the parent body.

“DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact,” said Andy Cheng of The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, the DART investigation co-lead. “Since we don’t know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid. With DART, we can show how to protect Earth from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet.”

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NASA Simulates Asteroid Impacts To Help Identify Possible Life-Threatening Events

When an asteroid struck the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013, the blast from the asteroid’s shock wave broke windows and damaged buildings as far away as 58 miles (93 kilometers), injuring more than 1,200 people.

In support of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, researchers are creating 3-D models and using one of NASA’s most powerful supercomputers to produce simulations of hypothetical asteroid impact scenarios. Their results help first responders and other agencies to identify and make better informed decisions for how best to defend against life-threatening asteroid events.

High-fidelity simulations of potential asteroids covering a wide range of sizes were run on the Pleiades supercomputer using NASA’s Cart3D and Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s ALE3D modeling software by experts on the Asteroid Threat Assessment Project at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility at Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

The NASA team was able to run large-scale simulations of the Chelyabinsk asteroid event on Pleiades to produce many impact scenarios quickly, because Cart3D is dozens of times faster than typical 3-D numerical modeling used for aerodynamic analysis. The detailed simulations allowed the team to model the fluid flow that occurs when asteroids melt and vaporize as they break up in the atmosphere.

NASA’s asteroid research is shared with scientists at universities, national labs, and government agencies who develop assessment and response plans to look at damage to infrastructure, warning times, evacuations, and other options for protecting lives and property.

Originally published at NASA

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Could Asteroids Bombard The Earth To Cause A Mass Extinction In Ten Million Years?

Sanna Alwmark, Lund University and Matthias Meier, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich

Scientists have spent decades debating whether asteroids and comets hit the Earth at regular intervals. At the same time, a few studies have found evidence that the large extinction events on Earth – such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 66m years ago – repeat themselves every 26m to 30m years. Given that there’s good evidence that an asteroid triggered the dinosaur extinction, it makes sense to ask whether showers of asteroids could be to blame for regular extinction events.

The question is extremely important – if we could prove that this is the case, then we might be able to predict and even prevent asteroids causing mass extinctions in the future. We have tried to find out the answer.

Today, there are approximately 190 impact craters from asteroids and comets on Earth. They range in size from only a few meters to more than 100km across. And they formed anywhere between a few years ago and more than two billion years ago. Only a few, like the famous “Meteor crater” in Arizona, are visible to the untrained eye, but scientists have learned to recognise impact craters even if they are covered by lakes, the ocean or thick layers of sediment.

Meteor crater, Arizona.
Kevin Walsh/wikipedia, CC BY-SA

But have these craters formed as a result of regular asteroid collisions? And if so, why? There have been many suggestions, but most prominently, some scientists have suggested that the sun has a companion star (called “Nemesis”) on a very wide orbit, which approaches the solar system every 26m to 30m years and thereby triggers showers of comets.

Nemesis would be a red/brown dwarf star – a faint type of star – orbiting the sun at a distance of about 1.5 light years. This is not an impossible idea, since the majority of stars actually belong to systems with more than one star. However, despite searching for it for decades, astronomers have failed to observe it, and think they can now exclude its existence.

Difficult dating

Yet, the idea of periodic impacts persists. There are other suggestions. One idea is based on the observation that the sun moves up and down slightly as it orbits the galaxy, crossing the galactic disk every 30m years or so. Some have suggested that this could somehow trigger comet showers.

But is there any evidence that asteroid impacts occur at regular intervals? Most research so far has failed to show this. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the case – it’s tricky getting the statistics right. There are a lot of variables involved: craters disappear as they age, and some are never found in the first place as they are on the ocean floor. Rocks from some periods are easier to find than from others. And determining the ages of the craters is difficult.

A recent study claimed to have found evidence of periodicity. However, the crater age data it used included many craters with poorly known, or even incorrect and outdated ages. The methods used to determine age – based on radioactive decay or looking at microscopic fossils with known ages – are continuously improved by scientists. Therefore, today, the age of an impact event can be improved significantly from an initial analysis made, say, ten or 20 years ago.

Another problem involves impacts that have near identical ages with exactly the same uncertainty in age: known as “clustered ages”. The age of an impact crater may be, for example, 65.5 ± 0.5m years while another is be 66.1 ± 0.5m years. In this case, both craters might have the same true age of 65.8m years. Such craters have in some instances been produced by impacts of asteroids accompanied by small moons, or by asteroids that broke up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Manicouagan crater in Canada seen from the International Space Station/
NASA/Chris Hadfield

The double impact craters they produce can make it look like they hit a time when there were lots of asteroid impacts, when actually the craters were formed in the same event. In some cases, clustered impact craters are spaced too far apart to be explained as double impacts. So how could we explain them? The occasional collision of asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter might trigger short-lived “showers” of asteroids impacting the Earth. Only a few of these showers are necessary to lead to the false impression of periodicity.




 

Fresh approach

In contrast to previous studies, we restricted our statistical analysis to 22 impact craters with very well defined ages from the past 260m years. In fact, these all have age uncertainties of less than 0.8%. We also accounted for impacts with clustered ages.

Our article, recently published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, shows that, to the best of our current knowledge, asteroid impacts do not happen at regular intervals – they seem to occur randomly.

Of course, we can’t be sure that there isn’t any periodicity. But the good news is that, as more impact craters are dated with robust ages, the statistical analysis we did can be repeated over and over again – if there is such a pattern, it should become visible at some point.

The ConversationThat means that there is presently no way to predict when a large asteroid collision may once again threaten life on Earth. But then when it comes to facing the apocalypse, maybe not knowing is not so bad after all …

Sanna Alwmark, Doctoral Candidate of Lithosphere and Biosphere Science, Lund University and Matthias Meier, Swiss National Science Foundation Ambzione Fellow in Geo- and Cosmochemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Potentially Hazardous Asteroid To Pass By Earth This Month

Potentially Hazardous Asteroid To Pass By Earth This Month

According to NASA, asteroid 2014 JO25 will make a “potentially hazardous” pass around Earth later this month. The asteroid is roughly is 1.4 kilometer, or 0.8 miles, wide and will make it’s closest approach to Earth on April 19th.

Update from NASA: 2014 J25 is expected to pass safely by Earth on April 19th.

It’s expected to reach it’s nearest approach at 1.7 million kilometers from Earth, 4.6 lunar distances. It will be the largest asteroid to fly this close to our planet since 4179 Toutatis in September of 2004. It will also be the largest predicted asteroid until 2027:

The 2017 flyby is the closest by an asteroid at least this large since the encounter by 4179 Toutatis at four lunar distances in September 2004. The next known flyby by an object with a comparable or larger diameter will occur when 800-m-diameter asteroid 1999 AN10 approaches within one lunar distance in August 2027.




 

The “potentially hazardous” classification is “based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.” Whereas an asteroid less than 500 feet across would not be hazardous, 2014 JO25 shatters that mark at 1.4 kilometers.

2014 JO25 was originally discovered in 2014 by astronomers at the Mount Lemmon Survey observatory.

NASA JPL’s Ron Baalke tweeted a GIF that shows just how close 2014 JO25 will come to our planet.




 

J. Masiero utilized observations from the NEOWISE spacecraft in 2014 to estimate a diameter of 0.65 km and an optical albedo of 0.25, indicating that 2014 JO25 is a relatively bright object. The spectral class, rotation period, and pole direction are unknown. This object will be very close to the Sun until April 19, after which it will be favorably positioned foroptical observations. We do not expect to know the rotation period before the radar observations because this object will be too faint and/or too close to the Sun.

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2015 BN509 An Asteroid That Could One Day Hit Earth

2015 BN509: An Asteroid That Could One Day Hit Earth

2015 BN509 was spotted flying through space by Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory. It was spotted zooming by our planet at 14 times the distance between Earth and the moon – a dangerously uncomfortable pass.

2015 BN509 is big. It’s 200 meters wide by 400 meters tall, bigger than the Empire State Building. NASA has deemed it “potentially hazardous” as it’s trajectory could lead to an impact with Earth.

The observatory spotted the comet, in a routine search for NEO’s. Arecibo was analyzing the unique shape of the asteroid, known as a contact binary. Contact binaries appear similar in shape to a peanut, in that they are formed by two round asteroids linked by a single point. They’re formed when two asteroids can not successfully orbit each other, and thus come smashing back together.

2015 WBN509 as recorded by Arecibo.

Arecibo will continue to monitor the asteroid to collect data on it’s trajectory.

In the future, NASA intends to fund the NEOCAM mission, a project that works on identifying NEO’s, in order to launch counter defensive measure for Earth’s protection.

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This Asteroid Looks Like Dungeons and Dragons Dice

Radar images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 were obtained on Feb. 6 and 7 with NASA’s 70-meter (230-foot) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California. They reveal an irregular, angular-appearing asteroid about 660 feet (200 meters) in size that rotates about once every three hours. The images have resolutions as fine as 12 feet (3.75 meters) per pixel.

“The radar images show relatively sharp corners, flat regions, concavities, and small bright spots that may be boulders,” said Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who leads the agency’s asteroid radar research program. “Asteroid 2017 BQ6 reminds me of the dice used when playing Dungeons and Dragons. It is certainly more angular than most near-Earth asteroids imaged by radar.”

This composite of 25 images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 was generated with radar data collected using NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California’s Mojave Desert. The images were gathered on Feb. 7, 2017, between 8:39 and 9:50 p.m. PST (11:39 p.m. EST and 12:50 a.m., Feb. 7), revealing an irregular, angular-appearing asteroid about 660 feet (200 meters) in size that rotates about once every three hours. The images have resolutions as fine as 12 feet (3.75 meters) per pixel. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

Asteroid 2017 BQ6 safely passed Earth on Feb. 6 at 10:36 p.m. PST (1:36 a.m. EST, Feb. 7) at about 6.6 times the distance between Earth and the moon (about 1.6 million miles, or 2.5 million kilometers). It was discovered on Jan. 26 by the NASA-funded Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) Project, operated by MIT Lincoln Laboratory on the Air Force Space Command’s Space Surveillance Telescope at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Radar has been used to observe hundreds of asteroids. When these small, natural remnants of the formation of the solar system pass relatively close to Earth, deep space radar is a powerful technique for studying their sizes, shapes, rotation, surface features, and roughness, and for more precise determination of their orbital path.

This composite of 11 images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 was generated with radar data collected using NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California’s Mojave Desert on Feb. 5, 2017, between 5:24 and 5:52 p.m. PST (8:24 to 8:52 p.m. EST / 1:24 to 1:52 UTC). The images have resolutions as fine as 12 feet (3.75 meters) per pixel. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

Originally published at NASA

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Doomsday Asteroid Will Hit Earth February 16th, Claims Conspiracy Theorist

Reports from one Dr. Dyomin Damir Zakharovich would have us believe that 2016 W49 is on a devastating collision course with Earth that could trigger extinction and mega-tsunami.

Update from NASA (Feb 1): On Feb. 25, 2017 Comet 2016 WF9 will approach Earth’s orbit. At a distance of nearly 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) from Earth, this pass will not bring it particularly close. The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and is not a threat to Earth.

We wrote about 2016 W49 earlier this month, it’s a comet that NASA believes will pass by our planet at a distance of 51 million kilometers, or 32 million miles. It was first spotted by NASA’s NEOWISE project on November 27th. And it should be close enough to be visible in the Northern Hemisphere during the first weeks of 2017. But according to one conspiracy theorist, a little too visible…

Dr. Dyomin Damir Zakharovich’s name has been popping up online in recent months in conspiracy circles, he claims “we are all in peril”. He thinks 2016 W49 is going to make impact with Earth on February 16th.

“The object they call WF9 left the Nibiru system in October when Nibiru began spinning counter clockwise around the sun. Since then, Nasa has known it will hit Earth. But they are only telling people now.”

According to NASA “The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and the object is not a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future”.

An artist’s rendition of 2016 WF9 as it passes Jupiter’s orbit inbound toward the sun. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

What we do know about 2016 W49 is that it’s about 0.3 to 0.6 miles (0.5 to 1 kilometre) across and it’s very dark (only reflecting a small fraction of light from it’s surface). NASA believes that “2016 WF9 could have cometary origins”, according to Deputy Principal Investigator James ‘Gerbs’ Bauer at JPL. And that ‘Nibiru’ is more commonly referred to as Planet X, a controversial mystery planet that if exists, is believed to hurl matter into our inner solar system.

When 2016 W49 was first spotted, it was unclear if it was a comet or an asteroid. Distinctions between comets and asteroids are as follows: comets are icy with long tails, whereas asteroids are mainly comprised of rocks and metals. What’s interesting is that this object is neither; it’s similar to a comet in that it surface is dark and unreflective, yet it doesn’t have the dust and ice tail we usually see. The mystery is also caused a confusion as to it’s origin.

2016 WF9 could have cometary origins. This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one; perhaps over time this object has lost the majority of the volatiles that linger on or just under its surface.”

– Deputy Principal Investigator James Bauer at NASA JPL

Our money is on the NASA prediction, but with a conspired impact date of February 16th, we’ll all find out soon enough.

Below you can find a statement written on NASA’s website, 2016 W49 is expected to pass on February 25th at 51 million kilometers.

A screenshot of NASA’s website (Feb 1, 2017)

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An Asteroid Just Flew By Earth At Half The Distance Of The Moon, We Never Saw It Coming1

An Asteroid Just Flew By Earth At Half The Distance Of The Moon, We Nearly Missed It

A report for those who watch the skies; astronomers have just learned that an asteroid whizzed by Earth at 9.9 miles/second. The asteroid was 34 meters long.

Asteroid 2017 AG13, was only discovered on Saturday by the Catalina Sky Survey and it’s knowledge was limited to exposure in a short 48 hour window.

“This is moving very quickly, very nearby to us,” Eric Feldman, Slooh, said in a live broadcast of the flyby. “It actually crosses the orbits of two planets, Venus and Earth.”

via SLOOH

Comprised of porous rock, angling at 45-degrees 2017 AG3 would have had a similar effect to the asteroid that broke up over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. 2017 AG3 would not have impacted the Earth, rather it would have exploded as an air-burst releasing 700 kilotons of energy into the atmosphere – roughly 10 miles above the surface of the Earth.

According to the NASA Near Earth Object Program, there are an expected 38 “close approaches” in January alone.

The asteroid that broke up over Chelyabinsk, Russia.

 

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White House Releases Plan To Deal With Asteroid Impact

White House Releases Plan To Deal With Asteroid Impact

On December 30, 2016 the White House released its plan for Near-Earth Object Preparedness. The document details how we could stop an asteroid disaster from ever happening. Or, how to deal with the scenario should the Earth be hit by a large asteroid.

The report was published by a NASA organization known as Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-bound Near-Earth objects (DAMIEN). DAMIEN suggests that increasing our detection and tracking capabilities is one of our most important steps to preventing impacts here on Earth.

“Unlike other natural disasters and space weather events, NEO [near-Earth objects] impacts are predictable many years in advance and, most importantly, potentially preventable when a survey of the population is complete. Although currently a global leader in detecting and tracking NEOs, the United States will depend (in part) on international cooperation and coordination to help develop capabilities for characterization and future capabilities related to the development and implementation of deflection and disruption capabilities for NEOs.”

It’s believed it could take us up to eight years (or more) to prepare and mount a deflection or destruction mission, thus early detection is Earth’s best friend. Ideas to deflect the asteroid revolve around impactors to change trajectory. The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) is planning to test a similar system in 2022.

A collection of the types of asteroids that may remain undetected in our solar system. Credit: NASA/JPL

The report goes into detail about responding to such an event, if an asteroid went undetected. Efforts would likely be similar to a hurricane or earthquake rescue mission with their own special protocols.

An asteroid is likely to make impact with Earth at some point in the future, we just don’t know when. It’s imperative we stay vigilant and detect any NEO we observe.

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Three Asteroids Will Pass By Earth Today

Three Asteroids Will Pass By Earth Today

NEOShield, an organization dedicated to impact threats on our planet, has spotted three asteroids that will pass by Earth today.

Asteroids 2006LH, 2010XN, and 2006XD2 are all going to pass by our planet today (Wednesday, December 21). The objects range in size; the first asteroid is 45 meters (148 feet) whereas the third is the largest at 260 meters (853 feet) in diameter. The larger asteroid is currently moving at 8.5 miles per second and the smaller at 5.8 miles per second.

Don’t fret, these asteroids are not going to impact Earth. They are classified as ‘near-misses’ in astronomical terms. The smaller asteroid will be passing earth at 14.5 times the Earth to Moon distance, and the larger asteroid (2006XD2) will pass at 18.9 times that distance.

There are currently around 15,000 near earth objects orbiting our planet within 0.12 billion miles from the sun. Thankfully for us we have agencies who monitor this type of activity.

If 2006XD2 were to impact Earth, it’s predicted to be 100,000 times less powerful than that of the Dinosaur killing asteroid from millions of years ago. It would not threaten life on our planet as we know it.

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Earth Overdue For Collision With 'Dinosaur-Killing' Asteroid, Nasa Scientist Warns

Earth Overdue For Collision With ‘Dinosaur-Killing’ Asteroid, Nasa Scientist Warns

Humans are not prepared for a surprise asteroid impact warned a Nasa scientist on Monday.

Speaking at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union, Dr. Joseph Nuth claims one of the biggest problems is a lack of preparedness; “The biggest problem, basically, is there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment.”

Asteroid and comet impacts are extremely rare for Earth and they happen sporadically across tens of millions of years, but Nuth warns of ‘dinosaur killers’ in his latest talk:

“But on the other hand they are the extinction-level events, things like dinosaur killers, they’re 50 to 60 million years apart, essentially. You could say, of course, we’re due, but it’s a random course at that point.”

Asteroids and comets are most commonly drawn towards our planet from the asteroid belt due the pull of Jupiter and Saturn’s orbits. Our most recent close encounter was in 1996 when a comet flew into Jupiter and again in 2014 when a comet passed “within cosmic spitting distance of Mars”. The discovery of the latter only occurred 22 months before it impacted, a frighteningly short window to plan and launch a deflection mission. “If you look at the schedule for high-reliability spacecraft and launching them, it takes five years to launch a spacecraft. We had 22 months of total warning.”

Nasa has mapped 90% of near-Earth objects larger than one kilometer, a significant mark as objects of this size could cause serious devastation on our planet. They’ve also mapped 1,748 “potentially hazardous asteroids” that could cause significant harm.

There are currently two leading theories on how we may deflect an asteroid, by using a nuclear warhead, or by using a massive kinetic impactor like a giant cannonball. While a nuclear explosion may be our de-facto reaction, it’s believed a cannonball mechanism could be more effective than a high powered explosion.

Nasa has been studying asteroids and comets with the National Nuclear Security Administration for over a decade. Just this October they performed a simulation of what may happen if a huge asteroid hit near Los Angeles. In which they estimated if a 330 foot asteroid hit California, the explosion would demolish cities and kill thousands.

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Blazing Meteor Creates Light Show Across New England Sky

Blazing Meteor Creates Light Show Across New England Sky

BOSTON (Reuters) – A meteor lit up the night sky over New England and eastern Canada early on Tuesday, startling people who saw it including police officers who captured the show on a dashcam.

A bright light streaked across the sky shortly after 12:50 a.m. ET (0450 GMT) over states extending from Pennsylvania to Maine, according to the American Meteor Society. It was also captured on some security cameras.

About 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles known as meteorites enter the Earth’s atmosphere each day, though most are too small to be noticed, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The Portland, Maine, police department posted a video showing the meteor as videotaped by the dashboard camera of a patrol car. One of the officers could be heard exclaiming, “Oh, my God!”

The airport in Burlington, Vermont, captured the show on a security camera.

NASA estimates that a meteor about the size of a car enters the Earth’s atmosphere on average once a year, producing an impressive fireball that burns up before reaching the ground.

(Reporting by Scott Malone)

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Jupiter Just Got Hit With An Asteroid And Here's The Video

Jupiter Just Got Hit With An Asteroid And Here’s The Video

Astronomer John McKeon captured video of something striking jupiter on March 17th. 

While recording the transit of Jupiter’s moons Io and Gannymede (via his 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and his ASI120mm camera) McKeon was fortunate enough to capture this cosmic event. It’s believed to be a comet or an asteroid pulled in by the immense gravity of the monster planet.

McKeon released this time-lapse video with the following description:

This is the time-lapse of processed images leading to the impact on Jupiter March 17. The original purpose of the imaging session was to get this time-lapse, with a happy coincidence of the impact in the second last capture of the night. Each of the images in the time lapse are clear because they have been processed from 55 seconds of video. the impact itself however only lasts less than two seconds, so I have shown this part without processing.

The time lapse was made using an 11″ SCT with an ASI120mm camera and Ir-pass 742nm filter. The time-lapse is 3.5 hours showing the transits of Io and Ganymede with the emergence of Europa all before the impact happening at 00:18:45UT on the right side of the planet.

Jupiter gets hit with asteroids all of the time. On record we have the 1994 capture of famed comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, and other significant events in 2009, 2010.

It’s a bit early to conclude exactly what this object was (an asteroid, or comet) but NASA expert Paul Chodas tells Space.com that it’s probably not a comet due to the sheer abundance of asteroids in our solar system.

“It’s more likely to be an asteroid simply because there are more of them.”

Jupiter Just Got Hit With An Asteroid And Here's The Video

A view of the impact flash on Jupiter (right side of image).

Because of Jupiter’s massive size, asteroids and comets from the Kuiper belt are constantly pulled inwards towards the gas giant. And it’s a good thing; these comets and asteroids would come careening towards the inner planets if not.

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Asteroid Could Fly Within Earth's Satellites On Tuesday

Asteroid Could Fly Within Earth’s Satellites On Tuesday

Asteroid TX68 poses no imminent threat to Earth, but on March 8th it will fly by us at a distance as close as 24,000 kilometers (15,000 miles). 

There’s a large amount of uncertainty from NASA however; It’s believed the closest approach would be 24,000 km, yet the latest NASA estimate suggests it may fly past us at 5 million kilometers (or 3 million miles). We wont know the asteroid’s actual trajectory until just after it has passed.

What’s alarming about this distance is that is well within the orbit of geostationary satellites that orbit at roughly 35,000 kilometers (22,000 miles).

“2013 TX68 is estimated to be about 100 feet [30 meters] in diameter,” says Cornell University Ph.D. student Sean Marshall, in a statement. “Its closest approach could be within Earth’s ‘ring’ of geostationary satellites, or it could be 40 times the distance to the Moon – or anywhere in between.”

It is not likely that this asteroid makes contact with Earth, or any satellites, but it is a very interesting event for scientists. This is the first time that an observable asteroid has come this close, without ever hitting the planet (that we know of). With modern advances in telescopic imagery, we should have an amazing set of images coming your way next week.

“Should this asteroid come closer than the geostationary satellites, it would be a rare occurrence – that only happens about once per decade for large asteroids. What we know for sure is that it will not collide with Earth this month, so do not panic.”

On September 28th, 2016, the asteroid is expected to circle around our orbit with a 1:250 million chance of hitting the earth. It will fly by again in 2046 and 2097 with a similar probability of impact. Another famous asteroid Apophis – will pass by us in 2029, with a legitimate chance of destroying satellite’s in its path.

The odds are low, but they aren’t out of the realm of possibility. It’s important that we continue to track asteroids to understand the ultimate fate of our planet.

 

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NASA Says Big Asteroid Could Pass By Earth Next Month

NASA Says Big Asteroid Could Pass By Earth Next Month

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – NASA is monitoring a 100-foot (30-meter) wide asteroid that could make a close pass by Earth next month but has no chance of hitting it, the U.S. space agency said on Friday.

First spotted in 2013, the asteroid could fly as close as 11,000 miles (17,700 km) from Earth on March 5, according to scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

That is roughly 1/20th the distance from Earth to the moon and about half as far as many communications satellites that ring the planet.

But given uncertainty about the precise path of the asteroid, known as 2013 TX68, it also could end up as far as 9 million miles (14 million km) from Earth during its flyby.

The asteroid was visible for just three days during its last approach to Earth in 2013 before it passed into daytime skies and could no longer be tracked.

“It will be hard to predict where to look for it,” NASA’s Paul Chodas, who manages the agency’s Near-Earth Objects Studies office, said in a statement.

NASA said there is a one-in-250 million chance of an impact during the asteroid’s next pass on Sept. 28, 2017, though future observances are likely to reduce that probability even further.

“The possibilities of collision on any of the three future flyby dates are far too small to be of any real concern,” Chodas said.

The asteroid is about twice the size of the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013. That blast shattered glass and destroyed buildings, leaving more than 1,000 injured.

If an asteroid the size of 2013 TX68 passed into Earth’s atmosphere and exploded, NASA estimates it would likewise be about twice as powerful as the Chelyabinsk blast.

By Irene Klotz

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Alden Bentley)

Image: NASA

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Doomsday Asteroid Will Hit Earth February 16th, Claims Conspiracy Theorist

Reports from one Dr. Dyomin Damir Zakharovich would have us believe that 2016 W49 is on a devastating collision course with Earth that could trigger extinction and mega-tsunami.

We wrote about 2016 W49 earlier this month, it’s a comet that NASA believes will pass by our planet at a distance of 51 million kilometers, or 32 million miles. It was first spotted by NASA’s NEOWISE project on November 27th. And it should be close enough to be visible in the Northern Hemisphere during the first weeks of 2017. But according to one conspiracy theorist, a little too visible…

Dr. Dyomin Damir Zakharovich’s name has been popping up online in recent months in conspiracy circles, he claims “we are all in peril”. He thinks 2016 W49 is going to make impact with Earth on February 16th.

“The object they call WF9 left the Nibiru system in October when Nibiru began spinning counter clockwise around the sun. Since then, Nasa has known it will hit Earth. But they are only telling people now.”

According to NASA “The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and the object is not a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future”.

An artist’s rendition of 2016 WF9 as it passes Jupiter’s orbit inbound toward the sun. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

What we do know about 2016 W49 is that it’s about 0.3 to 0.6 miles (0.5 to 1 kilometre) across and it’s very dark (only reflecting a small fraction of light from it’s surface). NASA believes that “2016 WF9 could have cometary origins”, according to Deputy Principal Investigator James ‘Gerbs’ Bauer at JPL. And that ‘Nibiru’ is more commonly referred to as Planet X, a controversial mystery planet that if exists, is believed to hurl matter into our inner solar system.

When 2016 W49 was first spotted, it was unclear if it was a comet or an asteroid. Distinctions between comets and asteroids are as follows: comets are icy with long tails, whereas asteroids are mainly comprised of rocks and metals. What’s interesting is that this object is neither; it’s similar to a comet in that it surface is dark and unreflective, yet it doesn’t have the dust and ice tail we usually see. The mystery is also caused a confusion as to it’s origin.

2016 WF9 could have cometary origins. This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one; perhaps over time this object has lost the majority of the volatiles that linger on or just under its surface.”

– Deputy Principal Investigator James Bauer at NASA JPL

Our money is on the NASA prediction, but with a conspired impact date of February 16th, we’ll all find out soon enough.

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