Over the years, asteroids have gotten bad rap, probably because of that terrible Michael Bay movie. The truth is, asteroids are just hunks of rock hurling through space that aren't actively seeking to destroy the human race. Later this month, one such non-apocalyptic asteroid will get close enough to Earth for our viewing pleasure. Even though it won't do any damage, this is a damn big slice of space garbage.
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Tomorrow morning, an asteroid-bound mission will launch towards a shadowy space rock, Bennu. There, it will scoop up a bit of dirt and deliver it back to us, all without ever attempting a landing. It's not just any dirt, though. Bound up in these grains could be the answer to how life first emerged here on Earth.
"EXCLUSIVE: Could this asteroid destroy Earth in just SIX weeks?" According to NASA, the answer is "absolutely not, you imbeciles".
NASA launched Dawn spacecraft in 2007 to study two of the three known protoplanets of the asteroid belt: Vesta and Ceres. And now here is an amazing interactive tool, very similar to Google Earth, called Vesta Trek, which let you explore Vesta — one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System — on your own.
NASA's spacecraft Orion just survived its very first test flight. The shiny, new space capsule will one day carry a human crew to Mars or to an asteroid — wait, which is it? Amidst the hype, there's still an unforgivable confusion about what comes next.
Not to be outdone by their ESA colleagues, NASA is sending a spacecraft to an asteroid to bring a piece of it back. Her name is OSIRIS-REx, and she will be visiting Bennu — great name for an outpost in a sci-fi movie — one of the primordial asteroids that have been orbiting the sun for millions of years.
An asteroid known as 2014 RC was due to skim past our planet over the weekend. But instead of passing by in the distance, it's believed part of the rock fell to earth in Nicaragua creating a gigantic crater.
What you see above could have not happened, as far as astronomers know. The Hubble space telescope has photographed this never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid. The observed space object has fragmented into several smaller pieces — which is common when comets approach the sun — but the process has never been observed before in the asteroid belt. Yet that is where asteroid P/2013 R3 has now ceased to exist.