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Posts Tagged "asteroids"

Life, Unbounded

Space: A New Hope or an Old Dream?

(Credit: NASA)

The release of a long-awaited National Academy of Sciences report on the state and future of the US space program has triggered wide-reaching commentary on what it means to be space-faring. For hundreds of billions of dollars spent over the next 20 years, the report suggests, NASA could get humans (reasonably safely) to Mars. Along [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Heads Up! Thirteen Years Of Asteroid Impacts On Earth

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Since the Chelyabinsk event in early 2013, when a brilliant meteor fireball streaked across Russian skies and exploded with the energy of thirty Hiroshima bombs, humans have paid slightly more attention to the potential danger of asteroids than before. A combination of media attention and the viral spread of eyewitness videos and photos perhaps did [...]

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Observations

Countdown to the Kuiper Belt [Videos]

For the first time two spacecraft will soon make up-close studies of objects from the solar system’s Kuiper Belt, a mysterious region beyond Neptune’s orbit. There, billions of icy asteroids represent pristine examples of the raw building blocks of the solar system’s planets. NASA’s New Horizons mission will visit the Kuiper Belt’s largest member, the [...]

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Observations

Could Another Chelyabinsk-Scale Meteor Sneak Up on Us?

Asteroid orbit before impact

When a 17-meter asteroid barreled into Earth’s atmosphere over central Russia on February 15, releasing a powerful shock wave that injured more than 1,000 people, many observers wondered how such a momentous event could arrive unheralded. The fact is, the object that exploded in a fireball over Chelyabinsk, releasing hundreds of kilotons of energy, was [...]

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Observations

Asteroids: Close and Closer, but Not Too Close for Comfort

Herschel space telescope spots asteroid Apophis

Early this morning, while most of the U.S. slept, a once-menacing asteroid drew close to Earth on its usual rounds through the inner solar system. The 300-meter asteroid, known as Apophis, kept a comfortable distance, flying well beyond the orbit of the moon. But Apophis has not drawn so near to Earth since 2004, when [...]

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Observations

California Meteor Broke Speed Record for Atmospheric Entry

Peter Jenniskens at Sutter

Meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens must move quickly to trap evidence of a fresh meteorite fall. In 2008, a small asteroid roughly three meters across struck Earth’s atmosphere over northern Sudan, producing a brilliant fireball in the sky. The asteroid’s orbit had been tracked before striking Earth, upping the chances that searchers would be able to [...]

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Observations

Newfound Asteroid to Zip Past Earth Today

near-earth asteroid 2011 MD

A newly discovered asteroid should zoom past Earth June 27, posing no threat to the planet but significantly bending the orbital path of the asteroid [see orbital diagram at left]. The space rock, known as 2011 MD, was first detected on June 22 by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project at a telescope [...]

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Observations

Which near-Earth asteroids are ripe for a visit?

Near-Earth asteroid Eros

In April 2010, amid mounting criticism that his space plan lacked direction, President Barack Obama gave a speech in Florida to lay out a few ambitious goals he had in mind for NASA. The details of how those targets would be met remain somewhat sketchy even today, but the goals themselves were clear—sometime around 2025, [...]

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Observations

Record-setting “near miss” of Earth dramatically shifted tiny asteroid’s orbit

Orbital diagram of asteroid 2011 CQ1 and its flyby of Earth

The solar system is littered with natural debris—asteroids, comets and pieces of the same that occasionally wind up in the steamrolling path of one of the planets. When a piece of debris encounters the friction of Earth’s atmosphere, it flares up as a meteor, or shooting star, and pieces of the object may survive the [...]

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Observations

Brian Marsden, longtime director of the Minor Planet Center, dead at 73

Brian G. Marsden, who as director of the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center (MPC) was the official record keeper for most of the astronomical discoveries in the solar system in recent decades, died November 18, according to an obituary bulletin from the MPC. He was 73. The MPC, housed since Marsden took it over [...]

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Observations

Nearby asteroids are a diverse bunch in terms of reflectivity and composition

Near-Earth asteroid Eros

A space-based survey of 101 objects that pass relatively close to Earth has found they have a wide range of reflectivity, indicating that their composition is varied as well. Thousands of such near-Earth objects, or NEOs, most of them asteroids, have been catalogued in the past several years, but most of those have been found [...]

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Observations

Russian space chief makes vague threat to vaguely threatening asteroid

Apophis orbit

Anatoly Perminov, the head of Russia’s space agency, said today that Russia will consider deflecting the near-Earth asteroid Apophis from its present path, according to news reports. After all, Apophis’s orbit periodically brings the 270-meter asteroid uncomfortably close to Earth, and it has long been on the watch list of nearby bodies that pose a [...]

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SA Visual

Visualizing 4-Dimensional Asteroids

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Jake VanderPlas, a data scientist who worked on the Graphic Science illustration in the October issue of Scientific American magazine. One of the largest treasure troves of astronomical data comes from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), an ongoing scan of the firmament that began 15 [...]

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