It is a space mission straight from the Hollywood film Armageddon... A team of astronauts, however, have already started preparing for just such a mission. Among them is Major Tim Peake, a former British Army helicopter test pilot who is now the first official British astronaut with the European Space Agency. Next month they will begin a training programme that will teach them how to operate vehicles, conduct spacewalks and gather samples on the surface of an asteroid. While the primary goal of a mission to an asteroid will be scientific to learn more about their hostile environments, the skills needed to work on their surface could also prove invaluable should scientists discover one on a collision course with Earth...
Tag Archives | Near Earth Objects
The chances that your tombstone will read “Killed by Asteroid” are about the same as they’d be for “Killed in Airplane Crash.” Solar System debris rains down on Earth in vast quantities — more than a hundred tons of it a day. Most of it vaporizes in our atmosphere, leaving stunning trails of light we call shooting stars. More hazardous are the billions, likely trillions, of leftover rocks — comets and asteroids — that wander interplanetary space in search of targets. Most asteroids are made of rock. The rest are metal, mostly iron. Some are rubble piles — gravitationally bound collections of bits and pieces. Most live between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and will never come near Earth.
The consensus is that it was a meteor crashing to earth. Martin Griffith reports for AP via Christian Science Monitor:
A loud explosion heard across much of Nevada and California on Sunday morning rattled homes and prompted a flood of calls to law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Sierra Nevada, some reporting fireball sightings.
The sound and the light show were likely caused by a meteor that entered Earth’s atmosphere, astronomers said…
Some people reported seeing a brilliant light streak across the sky at the same time. Sightings occurred over roughly a 600-mile line across the two states, including Reno, Elko and North Las Vegas in Nevada, and the San Francisco, Sacramento and Bakersfield areas in California.
Astronomers said they believe the mysterious light was a fireball, which is a very bright meteor. It will take time to determine the path of the fireball and where it broke up, they added…
[continues at AP via Christian Science Monitor]
Allison McCann reports for Popular Mechanics on the visual trail of a comet as it approached the sun, vaporized, and finally disintegrated:
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Sun-grazing comets are frustratingly elusive. As they approach the intense heat of the sun, these dirty snowballs turn to gas in a hurry and put on an impressive show before they disappear. But the intense solar radiation also makes the comet’s death extremely difficult to detect.
On July 6, 2011, solar physicist C.J. Schrijver of the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center and colleagues became the first to directly witness a comet falling within the solar corona, a sort of blazing-hot atmosphere that surrounds the sun. Labeled C/2011 N3 (SOHO), the comet is from the Kreutz family, the source of about 80 percent of the comets that pass so close to our star. The comet, moving at roughly 1.3 million miles per hour, was only visible to scientists for 20 minutes before vaporizing.
Edward Lovett and Ned Potter Report on ABC News:
We have a visitor — a large asteroid called 2005 YU55 that is expected to come within approximately 201,700 miles of Earth on Tuesday, according to NASA. That’s slightly less than the distance from Earth to the moon.
Asteroids often pass this close, but most are tiny. Countless thousands of pieces come plunging into the atmosphere, but they burn up without doing any harm. If they’re as large as grains of sand, we may, if we’re lucky, see them in the night sky as shooting stars.
But 2005 YU55 is at least 1,300 feet wide — larger than an aircraft carrier, according to radar measurements. The last time an asteroid this big passed by was in 1976, and the next one scientists know of won’t be until 2028, NASA says. (There have been some rude surprises in between, but not involving anything remotely as large.)
Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., said this fly-by is an opportunity to learn more about c-type — that is, carbon-based — asteroids, to find “clues as to what it was like when our solar system was forming.”
More: ABC News
The New York Times reports:
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Ebay and other Web sites pulse with hundreds of sales pitches. “The pieces below have an exceptional patina,” a site called Star-bits.com said of 10 pictured fragments.
The ads are for chunks of meteorites, bits of asteroids that have fallen from the sky and are as prized by scientists as they are by collectors. As more meteorites have been discovered in recent years, interest in them has flourished and an illegal sales market has boomed — much to the dismay of the people who want to study them and the countries that consider them national treasures.
“It’s a black market,” said Ralph P. Harvey, a geologist at Case Western Reserve University who directs the federal search for meteorites in Antarctica. “It’s as organized as any drug trade and just as illegal.”
The discovery of a rich and historically significant meteorite crater in southern Egypt, just north of the Sudanese border, has shown the voracious appetite for new fragments.
You have to appreciate the work that went into this “Apocalypse Soon” report in the European Union Times. Not only do they build on the “Ring Of Fire – America Is Next Great Quake” scare propagated by Fox News, they also manage to work in mass animal deaths, the Supermoon, a comet on its way to smash into Earth and more!
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A grim top-secret report prepared by Moscow’s Institute of Physics of the Earth for Prime Minister Putin on the catastrophic 9.0 magnitude Sendai Megaquake and Tsunami that hit Japan on March 11th is now warning that the “balance of our planet” has been altered after the titanic forces underlying this disaster has moved the Japanese Islands at least 13-feet closer to the North American West Coast Region and shortened the day by a couple of millionths of a second and tilted the Earth’s axis slightly.
One of the more credible of the various 2012 “end is nigh” scares is the prospect of a massive “Near Earth Object” (NEO), most likely a meteor or asteroid, smashing through the Earth’s atmosphere, causing damage locally on impact and potentially causing such great meteorological disruption that our way of life is changed forever, possibly to an extinction level. Frighteningly there is usually hardly any warning that they are coming. MIT’s Technology Review reports on an astronomer’s plans for a network of telescopes that could give up to three weeks’ warning of a city-destroying impact, on its Physics arXiv Blog:
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At about 3am on 8 October last year, an asteroid the size of a small house smashed into the Earth’s atmosphere over an isolated part of Indonesia. The asteroid disintegrated in the atmosphere causing a 50 kiloton explosion, about four times the size of the atomic bomb used to destroy Hiroshima.
One of the most likely ‘Earth Apocalypse’ scenarios among the many bandied about by 2012 alarmists is that a “Near Earth Object” — as asteroids, meteors and other space junk that might collide with us are known in the trade — might smash through our atmosphere and impact with our planet. The Hubble Telescope has recorded a taste of what that might mean, reported in the Register:
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The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the aftermath of just what happens when two asteroids collide at 11,000 mph (17,702 km/h), prompting an explosion “as powerful as the detonation of a small atomic bomb”.
The result is a “peculiar” object – dubbed P/2010 A2 – which boasts a comet-like debris trail behind a mysterious X-shaped formation.
The asteroid belt pile-up happened in early 2009, according to NASA, but it wasn’t until January this year that the Lincoln Near-Earth Research (LINEAR) Program Sky Survey spotted the tail.
These ones probably won’t hit, but they show that so-called Near Earth Objects could collide with our planet at any time with precious little warning. From ABC News:
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Today is not a good day for the anxious among us. Two small asteroids — two in twelve hours — are passing the earth, both coming within the moon’s orbit, one of them whipping by about 49,000 miles away.
In a spirit of calm, we ought to point out that NASA says close calls like these happen, on average, almost daily. The difference is that usually we never know. These two objects were both spotted Sunday by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona.
–Asteroid 2010 RX30 is estimated to be 32 to 65 feet in size (10-20 meters) and passed within 154,000 miles of Earth at 5:51 a.m. EDT this morning. (The moon, by comparison, is 2,200 miles in diameter and respectfully stays about 240,000 miles away.)
–Asteroid 2010 RF12, about 20-45 feet in maximum width (6-14 meters), is passing within approximately 49,088 miles of us at 5:12 p.m.