Some worry too much about asteroid impacts, which are among the natural risks that are best understood and easiest to quantify. Moreover, it will soon be possible to reduce that risk by deflecting the path of asteroids heading for the earth. That’s why I support the B612 Sentinel project.

Read more

Everything you need to know about the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA)’s upcoming Hayabusa2 mission, to rendezvous with an asteroid and bring samples back.

Launching soon! And then we wait til 2020 for its return.

Read more

American geophysicists believe the moon’s Procellarum region, a dark patch more than half the size of Australia, resulted from a magma plume rather than a massive asteroid strike, as previously thought. The finding “deals a big blow to the asteroid theory”, said Brown University, which contributed to the study. Procellarum is the only lunar “sea” big enough to be called an ocean and is one of a number of dark spots on the moon’s surface that, when seen from Earth, resemble a face. Unlike other dark areas such as the Sea of Rains and Sea of Seren­ity, Procellarum is not surrounded by signs of impact, such as mountains and scars. Scientists have long debated whether Procel­larum is so old that the impact signs have been eroded, or was formed by a different process. Now researchers say they have settled the argument, using data from twin NASA spacecraft that orbited the moon in 2012 and mapped its gravity. The team ­created a high-resolu­tion map showing Procellarum’s border composed of sharp angles that could not have been created by an asteroid. The researchers believe the angular outline was produced by giant tension cracks in the crust as it cooled around magma from deep inside the moon. Maria Zuber, co-author of a paper in the journal Nature, said tthe cracks had formed a “plumbing system” which had allowe­d magma to ­meander to the surface and created the dark spots we see.

Read more

A collage of radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2006 DP14 was generated by NASA scientists using the 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., on the night of Feb. 11, 2014.

Delay-Doppler radar imaging revealed that the asteroid is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) long, 660 feet (200 meters) wide, and shaped somewhat like a big peanut. The asteroid’s period of rotation is about six hours. The asteroid is of a type known as a “contact binary” because it has two large lobes on either end that appear to be in contact. Previous radar data from Goldstone and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has shown that at least 10 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than about 650 feet (200 meters) have contact binary shapes like that of 2006 DP14.

Radar is a powerful technique for studying an asteroid’s size, shape, rotation state, surface features and surface roughness, and for improving the calculation of asteroid orbits. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities often enable computation of asteroid orbits much further into the future than if radar observations weren’t available.

NASA places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them. In fact, the United States has the most robust and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects. To date, U.S. assets have discovered more than 98 percent of the known near-Earth objects.

Read more

the nature of: asteroid quakes

In 2010, Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary sciences at MIT, identified a likely explanation: Asteroids orbiting in our solar system’s main asteroid belt, situated between Mars and Jupiter, are exposed to cosmic radiation, changing the chemical nature of their surfaces and reddening them over time. By contrast, Binzel found that asteroids that venture out […]

Read more "the nature of: asteroid quakes"

Mars-crossers that are also Earth-crossers or grazers

These objects are not catalogued as Mars-crossers in databases such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s online Small-body Database Browser. Instead, they are categorized as Near Earth Objects (NEOs).

Read more

The mammoth asteroid set to fly by Earth last night just disappeared

The most likely explanation is that its orbit was miscalculated. Even with its current whereabouts unknown, the near earth asteroid poses no present danger to Earth — in fact, if anything, its loss indicates that 2000 EM26 is probably further out in space that was originally thought.

The mammoth asteroid set to fly by Earth last night just disappeared

Read more "The mammoth asteroid set to fly by Earth last night just disappeared"

Asteroid mining could be useful to space travel

“The question is, ‘What is the most efficient way of colonizing the solar system?’” he said. “And the notion of doing that might be so-called ‘living off the land.’ Instead of bringing resources that we need to colonize Mars, asteroids, etc. all the way from the Earth, what if we were able to actually extract those essential materials that are needed locally?”

With a current cost of about $10,000 per pound to send something into orbit, the possibility of using materials found in space, as opposed to bringing all supplies from Earth, would be the most cost- and energy-effective option available.

This would fit into what Engineering Prof. Brian Gilchrist said is a “resurgence and entrepreneurial mindset of new things we can do in space that haven’t been considered at all.”

Gilchrist’s research focuses on space tethering, which involves connecting two spacecraft with a conductive cable. As the spacecraft orbit in Earth’s electromagnetic field, the cable becomes charged. Solar power is used to add or leak charge from this circuit, causing the two spacecraft to move up or down. This theoretical system would allow the satellites to gain momentum without a propellant, and could have practical applications for tugging asteroids around in the Moon’s orbit.

Apart from colonization of the solar system, another potential purpose for mining asteroids is bringing materials back to Earth for environmental and commercial purposes.

“I think one of the best products from (asteroid mining), whether you’re mining for precious metals that are rare on earth or water for propulsion, is that there’s the opportunity for us to stop destroying the Earth’s environment,” said Engineering senior Bradley Costa.

Costa is currently engaged in a co-op with Planetary Resources, a leading private-sector company that conducts research on asteroid mining.

Along with sustainability benefits, corralling an asteroid could result in long-term economic benefits.

“One study I read says that one asteroid about a mile in diameter has enough precious metal on it to help humanity with all its needs for 10,000 years or so,” said Gallimore.

Asteroid mining could be useful to space travel

Read more "Asteroid mining could be useful to space travel"

Finding a comet: the backstory | Rocket Science

The comet was actually discovered by my computer here under my desk!

Our human-volunteer TOTAS clickers review all the ‘movers’ found by the software and either confirm or reject them. That task can’t be done by software – but the software can combine the single detections and extract the moving objects.

Just one of the ways we’re forming a team with machines and exploring the cosmos.

Finding a comet: the backstory | Rocket Science

Read more "Finding a comet: the backstory | Rocket Science"