Tag Archives | Near Earth Objects

Tonight: Cloudy With More Than A Chance Of Massive Meteor Showers

Hopefully it won't be cloudy! If you don't live in a totally light-saturated neighborhood (or the southern hemisphere) look at the skies tonight for a fantastic light show -- the Perseids. You should be able to see as much as a meteor per minute, caused by the debris from multiple orbits around the sun of the comet Swift-Tuttle. The video below is illustrative, but believe me, it will look a whole lot better with the naked eye.
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Very Early Warning: 1-in-1,000 Chance of Asteroid Impact in 2182

Ian O’Neill writes on Discovery News:

This isn’t an urgent call to arms, but it’s certainly a future date to consider. In the year 2182 — 172 years time — there’s the possibility that we might be hit by an asteroid with potential to cause some significant global turmoil.

This long-distance forecast could help mankind determine whether asteroid deflection techniques are warranted, especially when given nearly two centuries of lead time.

The not-so-romantically named (101955) 1999 RQ36 — discovered in 1999 — measures approximately 510 meters in diameter and is classified as an Apollo asteroid. Apollo asteroids pose a threat to our planet as they routinely cross Earth’s orbit.

With a one-in-a-thousand chance of 1999 RQ36 hitting Earth — with half of this probability indicating a 2182 impact — the threat might not sound too acute.

But compare this with the panic that ensued with the discovery of 99942 Apophis in 2004.

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Dark Asteroids Found Lurking Near Earth

Dark Asteroid

A near-Earth object becomes visible in infrared (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

David Shiga writes on New Scientist:

An infrared space telescope has spotted several very dark asteroids that have been lurking unseen near Earth’s orbit. Their obscurity and tilted orbits have kept them hidden from surveys designed to detect things that might hit our planet.

Called the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the new NASA telescope launched on 14 December on a mission to map the entire sky at infrared wavelengths. It began its survey in mid-January.

In its first six weeks of observations, it has discovered 16 previously unknown asteroids with orbits close to Earth’s. Of these, 55 per cent reflect less than one-tenth of the sunlight that falls on them, which makes them difficult to spot with visible-light telescopes. One of these objects is as dark as fresh asphalt, reflecting less than 5 per cent of the light it receives.

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NASA Says Asteroid Will Buzz Earth Today

Near Earth AsteroidAs reported in Wired News:

An asteroid 30 to 50 feet across will pass by the Earth at just more than one-third the distance between the Earth and the moon on Wednesday. That’s the closest near-Earth object approach currently known between now and the flyby in 2024 of a similar-size object known as 2007 XB23.

The new asteroid, called 2010 AL30, was discovered by the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research program, and announced Monday by the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

The short amount of time between the spotting of the object and its near intersection with Earth is a good reminder that humans don’t know every object that could come hurtling out of space and collide with our planet.

“Visitors frequently ask me if I worry about the NEOs that I measure,” wrote Dr. P. Clay Sherrod of the Arkansas Sky Observatories, on a forum thread discussing the asteroid.

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Russia’s Plan To Knock Earth-Bound Asteroid ‘Apophis’ Off Course

While NASA has just launched its WISE warning system for Near Earth Objects, the Russians are planning to actually do something about one that has been variously forecast to hit us in 2029, 2036 or 2068, Apophis (reported at Yahoo News/AP):

Russia’s space chief said Wednesday his agency will consider sending a spacecraft to a large asteroid to knock it off its path and prevent a possible collision with Earth.

Anatoly Perminov said the space agency will hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis, telling Golos Rossii radio that it would invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project once it is finalized.

When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated the chances of it smashing into Earth in its first flyby in 2029 were as high as 1-in-37.

Further studies ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles (29,450 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

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NASA Launches WISE To Spot Near Earth Objects

In her book 2012: Science or Superstition, Alexandra Bruce writes:
We’ve been told since childhood that an asteroid extinguished the mighty dinosaurs in a single day. When we look out at our pockmarked celestial neighbors, we know that something similar could happen here again. Recent discoveries at the bottom of the seas seem to bear this out and the “Planet X” rumors probably stem from these new scientific observations. “In 1980, only 86 Near Earth Asteroids and comets were known to exist…[today] NASA estimates that there are perhaps 20,000 potentially hazardous asteroids and comets in the general vicinity of Earth.” So far, the technology to adequately view and track these potential threats simply didn’t exist. With the November 2009 launch of NASA’s “WISE”: Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, it is hoped that we’ll be able to see any hazards that we’ve missed.
NASA was a little late, but on December 14, 2009 at 14:09 GMT WISE was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket deposited WISE into a polar orbit 326 miles above Earth. In a cheap but cute video, NASA scientist Dr. Amy Mainzer describes how the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will provide a map to the universe's hidden treasures, not to mention warning us of impending impact with Near Earth Objects: [cross posted from 2012SOS.com]
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Strong Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Early Tuesday Morning

By Robert Roy Britt for Space.com:

One of the best annual meteor showers will peak in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, and for some skywatchers the show could be quite impressive.

The best seats are in Asia, but North American observers should be treated to an above average performance of the Leonid meteor shower, weather permitting. The trick for all observers is to head outside in the wee hours of the morning – between 1 a.m. and dawn – regardless where you live.

The Leonids put on a solid show every year, if skies are clear and moonlight does not interfere. This year the moon is near its new phase, and not a factor. For anyone in the Northern Hemisphere with dark skies, away from urban and suburban lighting, the show should be worth getting up early to see.

“We’re predicting 20 to 30 meteors per hour over the Americas, and as many as 200 to 300 per hour over Asia,” said Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.

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Asteroid Passes Just 8,700 Miles From Earth – With Only 15 hours Warning

The Daily Mail is reporting on a close shave for all of us here on Earth, scarily close to the opening of Roland Emmerich’s mega-disaster movie 2012. A massive impact on the Earth’s surface by a Near Earth Object (NEO) (albeit one bigger than this asteroid) could bring about the types of disasters that 2012 alarmists are warning of. Alexandra Bruce describes the likelihood of NEO impact on Earth in 2012 in her book, 2012: Science or Superstition; the scariest part is that scientists generally only know about NEOs buzzing Earth after the fact.

Although no one noticed at the time, the Earth was almost hit by an asteroid last Friday.

The previously undiscovered asteroid came within 8,700miles of Earth but astronomers noticed it only 15 hours before it made its closest approach.

Its orbit brought it 30 times nearer than the Moon, which is 250,000 miles away.

But before you head for the nuclear bunkers you will be relieved to learn the tumbling rock was only 23ft across.

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A New End of the World Date: Not 2012, Not 2036, Now it’s 2068!

Rachel Courtland writes in New Scientist that the asteroid Apophis, previously thought to be on course for impact with Earth in 2036, is now more likely to hit us in 2068. (As an aside, Alexandra Bruce writes about Apophis and other Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that we may like to worry about in the disinformation book 2012: Science or Superstition.) From New Scientist:

The chances of the asteroid Apophis hitting Earth in 2036 are lower than we thought. But those worried about deep impacts should add a new entry to their calendar: 2068.

When Apophis was first spotted in 2004, the 250-metre-wide rock was briefly estimated to have a 2.7 per cent chance of hitting Earth in 2029. Further observations quickly showed that it will miss Earth that year – but should it pass through a 600-metre-wide “keyhole” in space, it will return to hit Earth in 2036.

For the past several years, the probability of such a collision has been considered to be 1 in 45,000.

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