Category: Asteroid Alert

An asteroid is about to slip between Earth and the moon — the second near miss in 3 weeks

(BUSINESS INSIDER) — By Dave Mosher

Less than 3 weeks ago, while America was getting the kids to school and arriving at work, an asteroid the size of a building slipped past Earth from a distance about halfway to the moon.

Now a similar space rock is about to zoom by our helpless planet.

The new near-Earth object (NEO), dubbed asteroid 2017 BX, was only discovered a few days ago, on Friday, January 20. It’s slated to swing by Tuesday night at 11:54 p.m. ET at a distance of about 162,000 miles (261,000 kilometers) — roughly two-thirds the way to the moon.

We first heard about it via an email from Slooh, a company that airs live views of space, and they’re hosting a broadcast about 2017 BX — which they’ve nicknamed “Rerun” — starting at 5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Asteroid 2017 BX, according to Slooh and data from NASA JPL, is similar to asteroid 2017 AG13, which flew by Earth on Monday, January 9. But this new asteroid is much smaller, at roughly 13 to 46 feet (4 to 14 meters) across — between the size of a car and a bus — and is moving at half the speed, approximately 16,600 miles (26,700 kilometers) per hour.

This is too small and too slow-moving of a rogue space rock to pose any real harm to Earth.

If its path had targeted our planet, and if it had been a loose pile of rocks (as most asteroids are) and not a metallic asteroid, it would break apart and burn up thousands of feet in the air, according to an asteroid-impact simulator called “Impact Earth!” by Purdue University

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Earth woefully unprepared for surprise comet or asteroid, NASA scientist warns

(THE GUARDIAN) — Humans are woefully unprepared for a surprise asteroid or comet, a NASA scientist warned on Monday, at a presentation with nuclear scientists into how humans might deflect cosmic dangers hurtling toward Earth.

“The biggest problem, basically, is there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment,” said Dr Joseph Nuth, a researcher with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Speaking at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union, Nuth noted that large and potentially dangerous asteroids and comets are extremely rare, compared to the small objects that occasionally explode in Earth’s sky or strike its surface. “But on the other hand they are the extinction-level events, things like dinosaur killers, they’re 50 to 60 million years apart, essentially. You could say, of course, we’re due, but it’s a random course at that point.”

Comets follow distant paths from Earth but sometimes get knocked into the neighborhood. Nuth said that the Earth had “a close encounter” in 1996, when an aberrant comet flew into Jupiter, and then again in 2014, when a comet passed “within cosmic spitting distance of Mars”. That second comet was only discovered 22 months before its brush with a planet: not nearly enough time to launch a deflection mission, had it been on a course for Earth.

“If you look at the schedule for high-reliability spacecraft and launching them, it takes five years to launch a spacecraft. We had 22 months of total warning.”

NASA recently established a planetary defense office, and Nuth has recommended that the agency build an interceptor rocket to keep in storage, with periodic testing, alongside an observer spacecraft. Nuth said that NASA could cut that five-year schedule in half, but that even reducing that schedule by a quarter would be “basically a hail-mary pass”.

A rocket in storage and ready to launch within a year, however, “could mitigate the possibility of a sneaky asteroid coming in from a place that’s hard to observe, like from the sun”, he said.

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‘Demon’ asteroid playing chicken with Earth orbit ‘If Apophis were to hit a city, goodbye to that city and the surrounding region for 100 miles’

(WND) — A giant asteroid dubbed Apophis is headed on a trajectory that could cause it to crash into Earth and prove catastrophic to all life, says a scientist at the University of California Berkeley.

“It would create a crater over two miles wide,” explained Alex Filippenko. “If Apophis were to hit a city, goodbye to that city and the surrounding region for 100 miles.”

As recently as 2013, residents in the remote Russian city of Chelyabinsk were shocked to witness the arrival of an enormous asteroid burning through the sky in 2013. The previously undetected object slammed into Earth’s atmosphere, illuminating the skies brighter than the sun and causing panic among locals.

The asteroid is named after an ancient Egyptian demon.

The bulk of the object’s energy was absorbed by the atmosphere – sparing residents from a deadly impact 29 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atom bomb.

What do YOU think? Is Earth at risk of catastrophe from an asteroid? Sound off in today’s WND poll.

Adophis is a near-Earth asteroid that caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a probability of up to 2.7 percent that it would hit Earth on April 13, 2029. Additional observations provided improved predictions that eliminated the possibility of an impact on Earth or the Moon in 2029. However, until 2006, a possibility remained that during the 2029 close encounter with Earth, Apophis would pass through a gravitational keyhole, a small region no more than about 600 miles wide, that would set up a future impact exactly seven years later, April 13, 2036. This possibility kept it at Level 1 on the Torino impact hazard scale until August 2006, when the probability that Apophis would pass through the keyhole was determined to be very small. By 2008, the keyhole had been determined to be less than 1 kilometer. During the short time when it had been of greatest concern, Apophis set the record for highest rating on the Torino scale, reaching level 4.

The diameter of Apophis is, as of the most recent 2013 observations, approximately 1,066 feet.

NASA discounts the threat of an Adophis close encounter with the Earth.

Researchers at NASA/JPL, Caltech, and Arecibo Observatory have released the results of radar observations of the potentially hazardous asteroid 99942 Apophis, along with an in-depth analysis of its motion.

The analysis of Apophis previews situations likely to be encountered with asteroids yet to be discovered: a close approach that is not dangerous (like Apophis in 2029) nonetheless close enough to obscure the proximity and the danger of a later approach (like Apophis in 2036) by amplifying trajectory-prediction uncertainties caused by difficult-to-observe physical characteristics interacting with solar radiation as well as other factors.

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NASA simulates the aftermath of a small asteroid striking Los Angeles… and it’s not pretty

(NATURAL NEWS) — An asteroid strike on planet Earth has been the stuff of hit science-fiction movies, in which devastation and death was widespread. In reality, the last known asteroid/meteor strikes occurred tens of millions of years ago, when the planet was far-less crowded.

A strike today, however, would be catastrophic no matter where it hit. And scientists believe it is not a matter of if, but when.

In recent days, a pair of federal agencies, NASA and FEMA, conducted an exercise simulating an asteroid strike on Los Angeles. As reported by The New York Times, the agencies were tasked with considering the devastating consequences of a 330-foot asteroid slamming into earth near a major metropolitan area.

The Times reported:

The simulation projected a worst-case blast wave by an asteroid strike in 2020 that could level structures across 30 miles, require a mass evacuation of the Los Angeles area and cause tens of thousands of casualties.

Up to one million potential objects out there
In the hit 1998 movie, “Armageddon,” a rag-tag group of geologists and oil-drillers were sent on a mission into space to land on a fast-approaching asteroid, drill a hole deep into its core and set off a nuclear weapon. But NASA and FEMA officials say that kind of theatrics isn’t very plausible in real life.

Fortunately, according to astrologists who track some 659 large asteroids, there is little chance one of them would strike the earth within the next century, said Paul Chodas, the manager of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told the Times in an email.

The center is reliant upon several telescopes like the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona’s College of Science to track comets and asteroids that are potentially hazardous. These bodies are leftover fragments from the formation of planets and they can come dangerously close to Earth, the Times noted.

Chodas said of the 659 bodies currently being tracked, “none pose a significant threat over the next century, either because the probabilities are extraordinarily small, or the asteroids themselves are extremely small.” That said, Chodas noted further that it was important to continue searching for and tracking asteroids in the event one begins heading for Earth.

Others, like the organizers of Asteroid Day, believe there could be as many as 1 million objects in space that could strike earth, and that only about 1 percent have been discovered.

Either way, hence the Oct. 25 NASA/FEMA exercise, which was conducted in El Segundo, Calif. The simulation projected a strike in 2020, and while a four-year warning might seem like plenty of time to prepare or prevent, experts say it probably would not be enough to deflect an asteroid of the size laid out in the simulation.

Chodas said that engineers believe the best way to deal with pending strike is to build a “kinetic impactor” spacecraft and ram it into the approaching asteroid years before it is projected to hit Earth.

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NASA prepares for asteroid impact within the next 2 decades: “It’s going to happen”

(SHTFPLAN.COM) — NASA is preparing for the big one, as many astronomists have found several major rocks that will be headed straight for earth in the next 10-15 years and beyond.

The threat of a destructive asteroid event encroaching upon our life has become an increasing concern, and it is gaining serious attention. In the long run, it is an inevitability.

Though major asteroids big enough to wipe out life across the entire planet are rare, scientists believe they have taken place and reset entire epochs. Moreover, smaller asteroids, comets or meteors can all do major damage, even if they aren’t record breaking hunks of space rock.

via the UK Metro:

When American government representatives asked NASA head Charles Boden what the best response to a large asteroid headed for New York City would be, his answer was simple: ‘Pray.’

But what would happen if a smaller asteroid hit Los Angeles?

Describing the scenario as a ‘not if – but when,’ NASA recently simulated what would happen if a 300 to 800ft asteroid approached Los Angeles with an 100% chance of impact.

‘It’s not a matter of if – but when – we will deal with such a situation,’ said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

‘But unlike any other time in our history, we now have the ability to respond to an impact threat through continued observations, predictions, response planning and mitigation.’

What will it mean for civilization as we know it? There is a definite threat of an existential crisis that would change the planet over night – though the chances are extremely low, there is still a chance.

How much warning would we have? We could have as little as three days warning of an asteroid which would blast London with the power of a hydrogen bomb.

And it’s possible that we might have no warning at all – at least with a smaller asteroid capable of shattering windows across the city.

[…]

Bigger asteroids could cause nearly unimaginable damage – wiping out many species and plunging Earth into a bleak winter lasting for years – although the larger an asteroid is, the more warning we would have of its approach.

‘The high degree of initial uncertainty coupled with the relatively long impact warning time made this scenario unique and especially challenging for emergency managers,’ said FEMA National Response Coordination Branch Chief Leviticus A. Lewis.

On the other hand, really big asteroid are routinely monitored and there are several known ‘big ones’ that will approach in the next decade or so… and while they might be headed for the planet, space agencies aren’t planning to take it lying down, instead, they have a plan to exploit it as a major opportunity, born perhaps, out of an unavoidable risk they hope to mitigate.

Now that researchers are getting good at spotting these objects and tracking their path, scientists are beginning to formulate workable strategies for knocking any incoming asteroids off their trajectories and even ‘catching’ them in Earth’s orbit to mine and exploit.

This man on stage at a Ted Talk explains what is at stake:

Phil Plait: How to defend Earth from asteroids

Yes, asteroid defense is now a major enterprise, and somewhere in the shadows a team is gearing up to outdo the casts of Armageddon and Deep Impact combined.

When asteroids do hit, the damage they can do is unimaginably catastrophic – and can easily dwarf the power of a nuclear detonation, depending upon the size of the incoming rock.

But what is perhaps worse than a rock that could pack the punch of “3 billion nukes” is one that is just big enough to destroy a major area, but too small for NASA or other groups to track effectively. In fact, the latter scenario happens all the time – not long ago, a big enough meteor hit and NASA had no idea until it was too late.

Will they catch the one that counts? And will anyone be ready if they don’t?

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No, Asteroid Bennu won’t destroy Earth

(SPACE.COM) — NASA’s new asteroid-sampling mission will do a lot of interesting things, but helping prepare humanity for Earth’s imminent destruction is not among them.

There is indeed a chance that the 1,650-foot-wide (500 meters) asteroid Bennu — the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch next month — could hit Earth late in the 22nd century.

But, mission officials stressed, that chance is slim, and the space rock is not nearly big enough to pose an existential threat to the planet, despite what some media reports claimed over the weekend. [Potentially Dangerous Asteroids (Images)]

“We’re not talking about an asteroid that could destroy the Earth,” OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta, of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, told Space.com. “We’re not anywhere near that kind of energy for an impact.”

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A spat over the search for killer asteroids

(NEW YORK TIMES) — More than 14,000 known asteroids zip through Earth’s neighborhood. They will all miss Earth in the coming decades.

But hundreds of thousands more have not yet been discovered, and whether any of those are on course to slam into our planet, no one knows. So finding and tracking all the asteroids that could cross Earth’s path would allow officials to issue warnings and potentially provide time to deflect dangerous ones.

The community of scientists contemplating such doomsday possibilities is small and usually cordial — at least until Nathan P. Myhrvold barged in. Once the chief technologist at Microsoft, Dr. Myhrvold moved on to other endeavors like a six-volume, 2,438-page compendium of cooking knowledge that has been celebrated by chefs. (A sequel, about baking, is in the works.)

He has also become a statistics scold of scientists.

His latest target is NASA, in a squabble over data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer spacecraft.

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More than 14,000 asteroids that zip through Earth’s neighborhood have been ID’d, but hundreds of thousands remain to be discovered,

Raiding the 66 million-year-old crater holding the secrets of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs

(UK TELEGRAPH) — Scientists are traveling back more than 60 million years in history to drill deep under the ocean floor in search of clues about the event that wiped out the dinosaurs, and nearly extinguished life on earth.

Some 15 miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, on a platform above the crater left behind when a massive asteroid struck the earth, they are traveling back through 66 million years of the earth’s history.

The area surrounding the crater, known as Chicxulub, is now characterized by serene seas and breathtaking sunsets. But it was once the site of a collision with the force of about 100 million atomic bombs.

Joanna Morgan, a professor of geophysics at Imperial College London and co-chief of the study at Chicxulub, describes the immediate aftermath of the asteroid’s impact:

“The first thing you’d see would be thermal radiation, so it’s very much like a nuclear explosion. You get a great big, expanding vapor plume that then at a certain temperature turns red hot and radiates heat,” she says, explaining that everything within 1000km – an area that on a current map includes Miami to the Northeast, Mexico City to the West and stretches down to Nicaragua to the South – would be incinerated.

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Scientists are traveling back more than 60 million years in history by drilling under the ocean floor for clues about the event that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Luxembourg’s spacecraft will test its asteroid mining tech

(ENGADGET) — Luxembourg is pouring some of its wealth into the development and launch of a spacecraft that could make it even richer. The tiny European country has teamed up with California-based Deep Space Industries to create Prospector-X, an experimental spacecraft designed to test some of their asteroid-mining technologies.

DSI will equip the spacecraft with its water-based propulsion and optical navigation systems. The team then plans to send the 30-centimeter (or around 12-inch) probe to low-Earth orbit “in the near future” to make sure their design works. Prospector-X will remain in LEO, but if the test is successful, its successors will be sent to mine near-Earth asteroids for gold and platinum.

Luxembourg and DSI aren’t the only ones with extraterrestrial gold and platinum dreams. Larry Page-backed Planetary Resources announced its plans to mine asteroids a few years ago and even launched its first satellite from the ISS in 2015. President Obama also signed the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law last year, allowing companies to keep whatever they mine from outer space.

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A Mysterious Object from Earth’s distant past has returned

(GIZMODO) — A first-of-its-kind space rock filled with pristine material from the formation of the Earth itself has returned to the inner solar system, after billions of years in the cosmic boondocks. And it could help us piece together our planet’s origin story.

Four and a half billion years ago, chunks of the same material that formed Earth and the other rocky planets are thought to have been flung into the Oort cloud, a ring of icy debris encircling the outermost edge of the solar system. Untouched, they’ve been preserved for eons in the deep freeze of space. Now, astronomers have spotted one of these fossils nearby, marking the very first observation of a rocky object from the Oort cloud. Read more »