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Neil deGrasse Tyson Talks Asteroids With 9-Year-Old Boy In Michigan

During a question-and-answer session, a 9-year-old boy named Jacob got into a riveting exchange with famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the various ways to stop an asteroid headed toward Earth. But the kid doesn’t simply ask his question, sit down and listen to the answer. Nope, he’s ready for this moment, peppering the host of the Fox TV series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" with followup questions and alternate scenarios."

(via huffingtonpost


Daryll Peirce: Molecular Structure and Asteroids

Daryll Peirce’s new body of paintings is dominated by a strange, organic substance. Is it the folds of the brain’s grey matter? A visualization of a molecular structure? An unearthly substance from the cosmos? These questions begin to pop up as you realize that Peirce is attempting to access something primordial and universal. When these shapes evoke atoms or asteroids, he reminds us that we are incredibly complex beings yet are still so minuscule in the grand scheme of the universe.

NASA Tells Space Cowboy Concept To Mount Up

by Michael Keller

Earlier this month, NASA awarded $100,000 to a Washington-based company to develop their concept for a cowboy spacecraft. The firm, Tethers Unlimited, has up to a year to develop a proposal for a craft that can deploy a net and tether attached to a winch to capture an asteroid and stop it from spinning.

The nanosatellite-scale system, envisioned in the artist’s concept above, is called the Weightless Rendezvous And Net Grapple to Limit Excess Rotation (WRANGLER, of course). The proposed system will use two technologies to stop a much larger and more massive asteroid from spinning: the Grapple, Retrieve, And Secure Payload (GRASP) Technology for Capture of Non-Cooperative Space Objects that uses inflatable tubes to deploy a net; and a winch-mounted tether that can exchange angular momentum with the object.

If it works, it could be an important element to decrease the complexity and risk of NASA’s long-term plan to collect and redirect an asteroid. Once caught and despun, the celestial object would then be moved to a stable orbit beyond the moon so that astronauts can explore it.

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All Of The Asteroids That Could Potentially End The World

Here’s the path of the nearly 1,400 asteroids that would cause “major devastation” if they hit our planet.

It’s no surprise that NASA is keeping track of all potentially hazardous objects, or PHOs, that surround our planet. If it’s closer than 4.6 million miles away and larger than about 350 feet in diameter, NASA’s watching it. And if a comet or asteroid’s orbit comes close enough to ours that there’s some potential for it to collide with our planet, NASA classifies it as a PHO. If something that size smacked Earth, it’d cause a major tsunami (if it hit water) or major regional destruction (if it hit land).

There are 1,397 known potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) at the moment, which you can see in this list. (The other PHOs are comets.) But why look at a list when you can look at a massive gorgeous picture? The image above, taken from NASA/JPL’s Photojournal, shows all 1,397 of those PHAs as represented by their orbits. Kind of amazing that we haven’t been hit by one, isn’t it?

[via Photojournal]

"Mining the Asteroid Belt"

The warning siren goes off as two nearby asteroids collide and rain a sea of debris upon the mining facility, interrupting Megan Lee's attempt to watch the newest video her son sent her back from Earth.

She doesn’t know why they even bother with the warning lights and siren, since it’s not like they could do something about it either way.  The facility is built into the largest and most stable asteroid in the asteroid belt and designed to withstand collisions like this, but it’ll either hold or it won’t.  There’s no in-between.  If the big one comes… the bells and whistles won’t matter.

And now she has to rewind the video back to the beginning, since the antique video player on this ancient computer won’t let her just skip back 30 seconds.

Still, she knows she’ll be watching this video countless times anyways, so rewinding it once more isn’t so bad.

With the time delay it takes to receive signals back from Earth, every video her son sends her is actually over 2 weeks old… she wishes she could see what he looks like today, and not always how he was…

When she left he was only a baby, and then after the hibernation and space travel, she woke up at the mining facility and he was 10.  She wishes she could’ve been there for his entire childhood… but it’s for the best though, it’s for the best…  

She can pull this 30 year shift working for the Company, mining the asteroids here for tripolodene, and her son gets automatic admittance into the Company’s schools and training programs.  He won’t have to do this grunt work she’s forced to do… even if she dies out here, which is 73% likely, his spot is safe.  And in another year he’ll outrank her already!

He looks so handsome in his lil’ Company Lieutenant suit… and seems happy.  You can get used to so much out here— wearing a space suit for 36+ hours a shift, the constant bobbing of living on volatile asteroids, the concussions and deaths caused by debris, but the distance from home… she hopes she never forgets how that feels.

And when she gets back, with the hibernation and space travel, she’ll be about the same age as her boy.  And she’ll be able to hug him, and he’ll have a great job and a family of his own, and he’ll never have to know how hard it was.  He won’t have to.

And it’ll all be worth it.

(Starring Megan Lee of! Please visit her awesome Tumblr or her Facebook)

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On Feb. 15, 2013, an asteroid estimated to be the size of a six-story building shot through Earth’s atmosphere at around 43,200 miles per hour. Dragging through the air at such speed caused the object to heat, and it eventually exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia.

The airburst released energy equal to 500,000 tons of TNT—30 times more powerful than the Hiroshima nuclear bomb—sending a pressure wave to the ground that damaged buildings and resulted in more than 100 hospitalizations. Researchers using Sandia National Lab’s Red Sky supercomputer reconstructed the path and explosion of the asteroid to improve models for future trajectories and impacts.

Images courtesy Sandia National Lab. Gif courtesy Sandia/Nature.

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Astronomers Discover A Massive Asteroid That Could Hit Us In 2032

Mark August 26th, 2032 on your calendar, folks. Ukrainian astronomers have just detected a 1,350-foot-wide (410 meter) minor planet that’s headed our way. The impact risk is minimal, but it’s now the most serious near-term celestial threat to face our planet.

I tend to shrug off this sort of stuff when I encounter it, but the sheer size of this asteroid, along with its near-term potential, made me curious. So I headed over to NASA’S Near Earth Object Program website to see if it was added it to its Torino Scale — a regularly updated chart that designates asteroid impact risk by category.


Not only was it there, it was at the top of the recently observed list — and all lit up in green, indicating that it’s something we should probably keep our eye on.


And indeed, the asteroid, which was initially discovered by astronomers working at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in southern Ukraine, has now been confirmed by other scientists in Italy, Spain, the UK, and Russia’s Siberian republic of Buryatia.

A Torino Scale rating of 1 (out of 10), which is shown in green, indicates an event that “merits careful monitoring.” It’s described as “a routine discovery in which a pass near the Earth is predicted that poses no unusual level of danger. Current calculations show the chance of collision is extremely unlikely with no cause for public attention or public concern. New telescopic observations very likely will lead to re-assignment to Level 0.

But it is considered potentially hazardous because its orbit will bring it closer than 7.5 million km from Earth’s orbit. In this case, TV135 could come as close as 1.7 million km. Size also matters when it comes to risk assessment. If it were to hit us, it would unleash 2,500 megatons of TNT — 50 times greater than the biggest nuclear bomb ever detonated.

The newly discovered asteroid, named 2013 TV135, now joins 2007 VK184 as the only Torino Scale 1 objects known to astronomers. Asteroid VK184, which is 603 feet (184 meters) in diameter, has a 1 in 1,750 chance of hitting the Earth between 2048 to 2075.

Thankfully, the risk posed by TV135 is extremely low — but not impossibly low. Current best estimates show that it has a 1 in 63,000 chance of colliding with Earth in 2032. That means it has a 99.9984% chance of missing the Earth. This number could either go up or down as new measurements are made over the coming years.

Asteroid defense system, anyone?

Source: io9

The next time anyone asks “why we need to do space stuff” or “why we spend so much money on space,” make sure you show them the 1,400+ PHA’s (potentially hazardous asteroids) or, as Neil deGrasse Tyson refers to - “a cosmic shooting gallery" - we live in. Image below courtesy of NASA. Laser bees anyone?


Trojan Asteroids:

Not all the asteroids in the solar system are from the asteroid belt, there are other clusters of asteroids in different orbits.

One of these clusters (or rather, two) are the Trojan asteroids. They orbit at roughly 60 degrees out of phase with Jupiter, but have the exact same orbital period/velocity - this is due to the fact that they occupy Lagrangian points - points at which Jupiter gravitational pull interacts with the suns gravitational pull in a precise way which allows a stable orbit. (Read more. no seriously, read more. It’s really interesting)

An interesting fact that i love about these asteroids (as a fan of science And history) is their naming: They are, obviously, named after the legendary siege of troy, But more than that - the group that are 60 degrees ahead of Jupiter are called the “Greeks” or the “Greek Camp” and the group that lie behind Jupiter are called the “Trojans” or the “Trojan Camp.” Likewise each note-worthy asteroid discovered is named after the characters in the war, in each side respectively. 

The Tunguska event

At 7.17 am on the morning of June 30, 1908, an explosion erupted in remote Siberia, ripping two thousand square kilometres of trees from their roots. Called the Tunguska event, it felled over eighty million trees, killed hundreds of reindeer, registered on barometers as far away as England, and made the night skies glow as far away as China.

The region is so remote that the first scientific expedition to the impact sight wasn’t for 19 years, led by Leonid Kulik, and they found no crater like you might expect, just mineral traces and endless felled trees. Even after 100 years, scientists aren’t 100% certain about what happened.

People have come up with all sorts of fabulously impossible explanations—a UFO crash, the annihilation of a chunk of antimatter, a mini black hole, Nikola Tesla’s “death ray”, a visitation by the god Ogdy—but the generally accepted theory is that the Tunguska event was, in fact, a large asteroid. It’s thought that during its plunge down through the atmosphere, the combination of speed, pressure and accumulated heat caused it to detonate 5–10 kilometres up, burning itself up and producing an immense shockwave.

The size of the asteroid is still debated, but it’s the largest impact event on or near Earth in recorded history. On average, an asteroid this size will plunge through Earth’s atmosphere every 300 years.

(Image Credit: Leonid Kulik)


Asteroids VS. your hometown: fun but frightening graphics compare asteroid sizes to places on Earth

Sometimes when I see data on sizes and distances in relation to stuff out in space, it’s hard to get a frame of reference, since those two categories tend to lean towards the super-big. But now, I’ve got a little help. Space enthusiast and software engineer Ciro Villa has brought some of these references closer to home with these fun graphics that provide accurate size ratios and proportions of objects in space compared to places on Earth.

Villa calls these graphics “hovering celestial objects” and while all of these scenarios are impossible in real life, he’s placed large asteroids and moons next to Earthly locations to provide a good frame of reference for dimensions. Please note that most of these objects have absolutely no chance of colliding with Earth as they are not anywhere near our neighborhood and are not expected to visit it either.

“My representations are is purely for illustrative purposes,” Villa said. “I have maintained the size ratios and proportions as accurately as possible just to demonstrate the dimensions. This is mostly a ‘fun’ exercise.”

Image credits and copyright: Ciro Villa

Click on images for caption

Asteroids Should Be Colonized Or Used As Transport To Planets, Russian Scientists Say

The potential colonization of asteroids is one of the most promising areas of space exploration - even more so than mining them for resources, Russian scientists say. The creation of closed-cycle ecosystems could possibly turn asteroids into space bases.

Asteroids are often easier to access because they sometimes pass very close to Earth. In fact, they are typically easier to reach than the moon, said Sergey Antonenko, head of the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Center.

“About 10,000 asteroids are circling around the earth and the asteroid belt consists of approximately 2 million bodies. Their total size is three times larger than that of the earth,” Antonenko said at a space technology forum on Thursday, adding that it would be much better to develop the asteroids’ interiors rather than mine them for mineral resources.

His view is shared by Andrey Degermendzhi, director of the Biophysics Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who believes that an asteroid’s rotation could generate gravity and that closed-cycle ecosystems may be created inside the small celestial bodies.

He says such closed system technologies could be tested on Earth first. Degermendzhi also believes that asteroids could be used as a method of transport.

“Asteroids that have elliptical orbits fly to Jupiter and Mars and may be used as a new means of transportation or base,” he added.

NASA has plans to put humans on an asteroid as early as 2021. This goal is expected to be achieved with the help of a new heavy lift rocket, which is currently being developed. The blue print is called the Space Launch System and it is hoped to be operational after a special robotic spacecraft captures a suitable asteroid with a space lasso and puts it in a stable orbit around the moon.

NASA has acknowledged that any mission to put astronauts on an asteroid will be fraught with challenges and risks.

Asteroid mining is also an attractive idea for some private enterprises. Planetary Resources, a US based company, announced last year that it aims to develop a robotic asteroid mining industry. Another US-based firm, Deep Space Industries, said in January this year that they also hope to start a private development of asteroid mineral riches and manufacture products in space.

Source: RT

Related article: Asteroids Could Be Used As Transport To Deep Space