Japanese spacecraft fired cannonball into asteroid

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft fired a copper cannonball into Ryugu, an 850 meter-wide near-Earth asteroid. The 2 kilogram "Small Carry-on Impactor," a bit larger than a tennis ball, hit the asteroid at approximately 7,200 kilometers/hour and blew out a 14.5 meter wide crater with a depth of .6 meters. After a year of analysis, scientists have reported their analysis of the plume created by the impact and properties of the crater. From Space.com:

The number and size of craters that pockmark asteroids such as Ryugu can help scientists estimate the age and properties of asteroid surfaces. These analyses are based on models of how such craters form, and data from artificial impacts like that on Ryugu can help test those models...

Features of the artificial crater and the plume suggested that the growth of a crater was limited mostly by the asteroid's gravity and not by the strength of the space rock's surface. This, in turn, suggested that Ryugu has a relatively weak surface, one only about as strong as loose sand, which is consistent with recent findings that Ryugu is made of porous, fragile material.

These new findings suggest that Ryugu's surface is about 8.9 million years old, while other models suggested that the asteroid's surface might be up to about 158 million years old. All in all, while Ryugu is made of materials up to 4.6 billion years old, the asteroid might have coalesced from the remains of other broken-apart asteroids only about 10 million years ago, Arakawa said.

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Another week, another warning from NASA about an asteroid headed our way March 3, 2020

Team asteroid was narrowly defeated by the Terrans earlier this month when a skyscraper-sized rock named 163373 (2002 PZ39) failed to slam into Earth. The asteroids have a second chance of hitting Earth on March 3 with a scrappier contender named 2020 DA4.

From IB Times:

Based on the asteroid’s size and current speed, the blast from its airburst could be equivalent to multiple atomic bombs. Although much of the explosion will be directed towards the atmosphere, the remaining energy could still be powerful enough to damage buildings, shatter windows and injure people on the ground.

According to CNEOS, 2020 DA4 will intersect Earth’s orbit on March 3 at 9:06 a.m. EST. As it crosses Earth’s path, the asteroid is expected to be about 0.00629 astronomical units or roughly 585,000 miles from the planet’s center. This means that the asteroid will only be about twice the distance between the Earth and the Moon during its approach.

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Comparing the size of known asteroids to New York City

MetalBallStudios made this animated video that helps you envision the size of various named asteroids by placing them in Manhattan.

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NASA reports a "potentially hazardous" asteroid will come close to Earth on February 15, 2020

NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) said a "potentially hazardous" asteroid is headed our way. Read the rest

Incredible images from the rovers on asteroid Ryugu

Last week, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency landed two tiny rovers on the asteroid Ryugu where they'll "hop" across the rock as part of a mission to collect samples that the Hayabusa2 mothership will return to Earth. Here are new images from the asteroid that's 289 million kilometers (180 million miles) away from Earth. Far fucking out.

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The world's first trillionaire may be an asteroid miner

Extracting earth's natural resources created some of the world's greatest fortunes. Many believe that trend will continue in space, as mining three types of asteroids leads to enormous material yields. Read the rest

Would you kill to stop an asteroid panic? I asked the creators of Salvation

In six months, a large asteroid is going to hit Earth. It's likely that everyone is going to die. Only a few people know about it, and they are desperately trying to stop it from slamming into the planet. That's the premise of Salvation, a new suspense thriller TV series premiering on CBS this Wednesday, July 12, 2017. Carla and I got an early look at the first episode, and we both loved it for the premise, sense of urgency, moral issues explored, and hints that more is unfolding than meets the eye. Our friends Elizabeth Kruger and Craig Shapiro created the show, so I grabbed them for a quick interview to ask them about what went into making a series that deals with people secretly trying to save humankind.

Mark: What's the conflict in Salvation?

Liz: An asteroid is going to collide with Earth in 186 days, and if our government and/or others don't come up with new technology to solve the problem, we're going to go the way of the dinosaurs. Adding to that conflict is other countries that are also looking into how to solve the problem, and what do you do if the world itself cannot agree on how to solve a problem? And if you solve it on one side of the world what problems does it create for the other side of the world?

Mark: So if the different countries' solutions don't necessarily work in harmony with each other, they could actually conflict with each other. Read the rest

Chart: many asteroids are worth quintillions of dollars each

The asteroid belt holds untold wealth for the prospectors who can reach and mine them. Wired UK just published an interesting chart of select asteroids valued between 1 and 27 quintillion dollars each. Read the rest

NASA launches OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample mission now speeding toward Bennu rendezvous

NASA reports that its first ever asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05 p.m. EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, “beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.”

OSIRIS-REx, which is short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, is headed to the near-Earth asteroid called Bennu.

The probe's job: Touch the asteroid (after asking consent first, and with a platonic vibe) so we can bring a small sample back to Earth for study. If all goes as planned after today's launch, the spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023. Read the rest

This small asteroid is Earth's constant cosmic companion

NASA announced today that a small asteroid has been discovered in an orbit around our Sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth. And it'll stay that way for centuries to come. Read the rest

Backyard astronomer discovered 300 asteroids so far

Meet maker Gary Hug who built his own home observatory, including a DIY reflector telescope, and discovered more than 300 asteroids.

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If you could see all the known asteroids, what would the sky look like?

Scott Manley entered data for all the known asteroids near the Earth and made a cool 360 video of them.

I took all the asteroids near the Earth, calculate their positions and place them on a virtual Sky sphere. You can pan the view around, use a smartphone or tablet as a virtual window, or a Cardboard compatible viewer to see this the way it's intended.

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Why can't we prevent asteroid strikes?

Asteroids: Yet more evidence that (as a society) we aren't very good at prioritizing preventative measures against long-term risks. Read the rest

What exploded over Russia? Space researchers explore, with infrasound sensors

Piecing together what exploded in the skies over Russia, using infrasound sensors operated by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization

Weird meteor shower to peak tomorrow night

The Geminids are one of the big deal meteor showers that happen every year. In fact, they're regarded as one of the most reliable and impressive. They're also a little strange.

Most meteor showers happen when Earth and a comet cross paths, slingling rocks, dust, and debris from the comet's tail into our atmosphere. The sudden influx of shooting starts that results is a highly noticeable event and humans have been recording them for millennia.

The Geminids are different. They sort of just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, back in 1862. And it wasn't until the 1980s that scientists were finally able to identify the thing that was producing them. At which point, ish got weirder.

That's because the object, known as 3200 Phaethon, is really confusing. It doesn't seem to be a comet. At least, not a normal, healthy, functioning comet. It doesn't even have a tail. In fact, at this point most scientists think it's probably an asteroid, which then leads to still-yet-unexplained question of where all the meteors come from. Asteroids, after all, do not typically accumulate tails of small rocks. So far, the best guess has to do with 3200 Phaethon's orbit, which over the course of about a year and a half takes it closer to the Sun than Mercury and then back out further from the Sun than Mars. Those wild temperature swings might lead to the asteroid cracking and throwing off dust and debris, which then becomes meteors. But, as a NASA info page pointed out in 2010, that explanation doesn't totally cut it. Read the rest

We almost got cold cocked by an asteroid, yo

Two days ago, astronomers spotted a new asteroid. Early this morning, the sonofabitch nearly hit our planet. Read the rest

Help name an asteroid!

In 2016, NASA will launch OSIRIS-REx, an unmanned mission to an astroid called 1999 RQ36. It is, to say the least, not the most inspiringly named object in space. That's why MIT, the University of Arizona, and the Planetary Society are sponsoring a contest to rename it. If you are under age 18—and are capable of the official asteroid naming guidelines—then you can enter the contest! Too old? (Or too incapable of coming up with a non-offensive asteroid name?) Then post your idea here! Read the rest

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