Tag Archives: asteroid

Should we be prepared?

Tomorrow morning the asteroid Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass by the earth. At its nearest approach Friday (Feb. 15, Morning of February 16 NZ time), the 150-foot-wide (45 meters) asteroid 2012 DA14 will be just 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers) from Earth (within the orbits of geosynchronous communications, weather and navigation satellites) — the closest encounter with such a large space rock that researchers have ever known about in advance.

This brief video provides some information.

Thanks to: Science Today – Asteroid 2012 DA14

NASA TV will also run a live commentary of the flyby  February 15 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST) US time – 8 am NZ time.

Should we worry?

Nothing to worry about they tell us!

But here’s what worries me.

This asteroid was only discovered a short time ago (within the last year). The fact that it will pass so close indicates a reasonable chance we could actually be hit by an asteroid that size any time. One capable of destroying a major city.

There are larger asteroids out there. Some large enough to cause world-wide damage – even extinction of life.

Shouldn’t we be doing something about this possibility?

Yes, I know we are busy finding and mapping orbits of near earth objects. But what would we do if we actually found one that was on target for a direct hit? With notice of only a few month?

We should be working hard to develop the spacecraft and techniques capable of diverting such objects. And have them ready, able to do the diversion with very little notice.

I suspect we already have the technology and ideas to produce such craft.

Several years ago I was shocked at the reaction of some US space enthusiasts when the Russians announced they were putting effort into systems for diverting asteroids. They seemed to think the idea was fanciful.

Fortunately, since then the US has announced plans of their own to at least develop the ability to make manned visits to asteroids.

Surely space-faring nations should be working together to urgently develop the ability to divert near earth object? The future of our species may depend on it.

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Seven years of discovery

While the Shuttle launches and the International Space Station get the media attention I am always impressed by the deep space research that is quietly going on.

This weekend NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will (hopefully) go into orbit around the asteroid Vesta. This photo of Vesta was taken by the spacecraft last weekend.

With a diameter of about 500 km Vesta is the second largest asteroid in the solar system. Dawn will spend one year orbiting Vesta and will then travel to the largest asteroid (1000 km diameter) Ceres. There it will spend 5 months in orbit carrying out similar studies.

Because these asteroids may have remained intact since formation of the solar system they should reveal information dating back to that time. They also have differences (Vesta formed a few million years before Ceres) which will also be illuminating.

This diagram shows the trajectory of Dawn’s trip, together with dates.

See also:
Dawn Spacecraft Poised to Enter Orbit at Vesta Asteroid: Scientific American.
All eyes on Vesta
Looming Larger: Dawn Approaches Vesta, Enters Orbit July 15-16

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Political stupidity

The Onion is a satirical news source. It’s humour. Their “reports” can be very realistic, they have a kernel of truth,  so I won’t be the only one who is sometimes taken in by one of their news reports.

This one fooled me for a while – Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth. After all, look at the behaviour of some US Republican politicians, and especially the Tea Party, on the climate change issue. Or health reform. Continue reading