10 September 2010

Two Asteroids Zip Past Today; Meanwhile, NASA Plans Killer Asteroid Defenses

Terrific Video by Scott Manley showing how our Understanding of the threat has changed!

Here Are All the Asteroids That Have Been Discovered Since 1980
Wondering where all the asteroids are? Well, "up," obviously. But also, in this beautiful, hypnotic video that tracks asteroid discovery over the last 30 years. It's more engrossing than Armageddon, that's for sure. (Watching it in HD is best!)
From: http://gawker.com/5623181/here-are-all-the-asteroids-that-have-been-discovered-since-1980

More detail from Youtube:
Video Created by Scott Manley, this is a view of the solar system showing the locations of all the asteroids starting in 1980, as asteroids are discovered they are added to the map and highlighted white so you can pick out the new ones.
The final colour of an asteroids indicates how closely it comes to the inner solar system.
Earth Crossers are Red
Earth Approachers (Perihelion less than 1.3AU) are Yellow
All Others are Green

Notice now the pattern of discovery follows the Earth around its orbit, most discoveries are made in the region directly opposite the Sun. You'll also notice some clusters of discoveries on the line between Earth and Jupiter, these are the result of surveys looking for Jovian moons. Similar clusters of discoveries can be tied to the other outer planets, but those are not visible in this video.

As the video moves into the mid 1990's we see much higher discovery rates as automated sky scanning systems come online. Most of the surveys are imaging the sky directly opposite the sun and you'll see a region of high discovery rates aligned in this manner.

At the beginning of 2010 a new discovery pattern becomes evident, with discovery zones in a line perpendicular to the Sun-Earth vector. These new observations are the result of the WISE (Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer) which is a space mission that's tasked with imaging the entire sky in infrared wavelengths.

The scale of the video at 1080P resolution is roughly 1million kilometers per pixel, and each second of video corresponds to 60 days.

Currently we have observed over half a million minor planets, and the discovery rates show no sign that we're running out of undiscovered objects, scientific estimates suggest that there are about a billion asteroids larger than 100metres (about the size of a football field) .

Orbital elements were taken from the 'astorb.dat' data created by Ted Bowell and associates at ftp://ftp.lowell.edu/pub/elgb/astorb.html

Music is 'Transgenic' by Trifonic: http://www.amazon.com/Emergence-Trifo... - they're awesome guys, give them some love.

Check out todays asteroid map at http://szyzyg.arm.ac.uk/~spm/neo_map....
Quite a few journalists, bloggers and tweeters are attributing this to NASA or Arecibo Observatory - while they do fine work they had nothing to do with this. If you write a story you can credit it to Scott Manley.

If you are needing a higher quality video or images for a specific purposes - education, news or just eye candy I can supply them on a case by case basis.

Two Asteroids Will Buzz the Earth Today, Extinction-Level Event Not Happening
Two asteroids are due to pass between the Earth and the orbit of the moon sometime today, but don't worry, we're (probably) not all going to die: "Neither of these objects has a chance of hitting Earth," says NASA.

The asteroids are due to pass by about 11 hours apart, and should be visible using "moderate-sized amateur telescopes," NASA said in a statement. One of the asteroids is thought to be between 33 and 65 feet wide, while the other is between 20 and 46 feet wide. Pretty harmless! And even though NASA says these two asteroids aren't going to destroy life on Earth as we know it, the agency has warned that a Planetary Defense Coordination Office needs to be established to prevent asteroids from destroying us in the future.

In the meantime, here is a not-very-exciting NASA asteroid tracker, which follows the asteroids from January up until today:

From: http://gawker.com/5632644/two-asteroids-will-buzz-the-earth-today-extinction+level-event-not-happening
Two Asteroids Will Buzz the Earth Today, Extinction-Level Event Not Happening

NASA to Do Armageddon, in Real Life

NASA to Do Armageddon, in Real LifeNASA would like to send a spacecraft to RQ36, the "mountain-size" asteroid expected to hit earth around 2182, to collect samples and map the asteroid. Be more budget-conscious, NASA! You could just rent Armageddon for a couple bucks instead. [NatGeo]

From: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/09/08/two-asteroids-zip-past-today-meanwhile-nasa-plans-killer-asteroid-defenses/

Zoom, zoom: Today two asteroids make close flybys of the Earth, passing inside the orbit of the moon. We’re in no danger, NASA says, but these close passes are a reminder that the United States and the world need to figure out how we’re going to catch an asteroid that could be on a collision course with our planet.

The larger asteroid, called 2010 RX30, passed by this morning. The smaller, 2010 RF12, is due for a pass at 5:12 p.m. Eastern time today. RF12, which is estimated to be between 20 and 46 feet in diameter, will come within about 50,000 miles of the Earth.

This is higher than communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit 22,369 miles (36,000 km) above Earth. On average, the moon is about roughly 238,600 miles (384,000 km) from Earth, so 2010 RF12 will pass by at nearly 0.2 of that lunar distance. [MSNBC]

The nearness of the afternoon asteroid should make it visible with a telescope. However, on its pass by the Earth it will be closest to Antarctica, CNN reports, hindering the ability of North Americans to see it.

NASA’s sky-watchers spotted these two objects on Sunday. According to Donald Yeomans, the head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program, three days is actually pretty good warning considering how small they are, and our lookout capabilities.

“Things like this happen every day that we simply don’t know about because we don’t have the telescopes large enough to find them or surveys that are looking full-time,” he said. “This demonstrates the system’s working on some level, but we need larger telescopes and more of them to find objects that are coming this close.” [CNN]

Indeed, NASA’s ability to spot near-Earth objects (NEOs) lags behind the Congressional target: finding 90 percent of the NEOs that are 140 meters (about 460 feet) in diameter by 2020. Nature reports that NASA’s committee on what to do about this, the Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense, is preparing to release its report in October.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has until 15 October to decide which agency will be responsible for protecting the planet from an asteroid strike. Members of the task force say NASA expects to be given part or all of that responsibility. To meet it, the panel discussed the creation of a Planetary Protection Coordination Office (PPCO) within NASA, with an annual budget of $250 million–$300 million. It would detect and track asteroids — and develop a capability to deflect them. [Nature]

The advisory panel also might recommend whether it would be better to develop a space-based telescope to watch for NEOs, or to invest in large ground-based telescopes that might cost less and last longer.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: The Asteroid Hunters, backyard astronomers who watch for armageddon
80beats: Danger, President Obama! Visiting an Asteroid Is Exciting, but Difficult
80beats: That Killer Asteroid You Heard About Yesterday? We Knew About It Last Year
80beats: Astronomers Announce Priorities: Dark Energy, Exoplanets, Cosmic Origins


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