Tagged With asteroids
For billions of years, the Solar System's asteroids have been involved in an endless game of bumper cars, smashing into each other and splintering into smaller bits. But get this — astronomers have just detected a clump of asteroids that has managed, quite miraculously, to stay intact since they first formed some four billion years ago. The discovery is revealing new insights into what our Solar System looked like during its earliest phase.
Microscopic tardigrades, also known as "water bears", are the toughest animals on the planet, capable of withstanding intense radiation, extreme temperatures, and even the vacuum of space. In a fascinating new study, researchers have shown that tardigrades are poised to survive literally anything that nature throws at them — and that of the animals alive today, they will be the last ones standing before the Sun annihilates the Earth billions of years from now.
A mission to demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique just got a NASA promotion to the design phase. Called DART, the plan would see a refrigerator-sized spacecraft smash into a non-threatening asteroid, causing it to move ever so slightly from its original orbital path. The project is seen as an important first step in developing a planetary shield against incoming asteroids.
Every few months, a journalist asks a scientist about the looming threat of Armageddon. That scientist's quotes are then predictably blown out of proportion and turned into some iteration of "The End Is Nigh". In light of Asteroid Day, which was yesterday, we'd like to clarify some of the apocalyptic misinformation that's spreading. As badly as we all want an asteroid to strike us squarely in the face at this point, that probably won't be happening any time soon.
Four years ago, an asteroid the size of a city bus screamed across the skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia, shattering glass around a 100km perimeter and sending 1200 people to hospitals with related injuries. In an effort to learn more about these rare but dangerous encounters with objects from space, NASA has used a supercomputer to recreate the moment an asteroid of comparable size hits the atmosphere.
Most asteroids orbit the Sun in a counterclockwise fashion, but a newly-discovered object nicknamed Bee-Zed goes against the grain, spinning around the Solar System the opposite way. Not only that, it frequently ventures within Jupiter's orbital space — putting it on a potential collision course with the gas giant and its 6000 co-orbiting asteroids.
Humans are rightly terrified by the threat of nuclear war, but there's also a non-zero chance that a giant rock will come hurling through our atmosphere to ruin every Earthling's day. When that happened 66 million years ago, it triggered a mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. But we have something the dinosaurs didn't: Scientists, who are working hard to account for all of the dangerous asteroids in our solar neighbourhood, and to develop technologies that can move them off a deadly collision course.
Right now, OSIRIS-REx is one of the busiest spacecrafts in the solar system. OSIRIS-REx, which blasted off in September 2016, has been getting ready to rendezvous with the object of its mission — an asteroid called Bennu — in order to bring back samples to Earth. But before the spacecraft links up with Bennu in 2018, it's been assigned a side project.
Concern over an apocalyptic asteroid strike has risen all the way to the top: The White House released a document this week detailing a strategy for National Near Earth Object (NEO) preparedness. Morgan Freeman would no doubt be proud.
In addition to its 67 moons, Jupiter is accompanied by two giant clusters of asteroids that orbit the Sun along the same path, and is packed with as many large objects as the Asteroid Belt. Yesterday, NASA announced a new mission to investigate these "trojan" asteroids. Here's what you need to know about this exciting new project.