In 1802, German astronomer Heinrich Olbers observed what he thought was a planet within the Main Asteroid Belt. In time, astronomers would come to name this body Pallas, an alternate name for the Greek warrior goddess Athena. The subsequent discovery of many more asteroids in the Main Belt would lead to Pallas being reclassified as a large asteroid, the third-largest in the Belt after Ceres and Vesta.
For centuries, astronomers have sought to get a better look at Pallas to learn more about its size, shape, and composition. As of the turn of the century, astronomers had come to conclude that it was an oblate spheroid (an elongated sphere). Thanks to a new study by an international team, the first detailed images of Pallas have finally been taken, which reveal that its shape is more akin to a “golf ball” – i.e. heavily dimpled.
Continue reading “New Images of the “Golf Ball” Asteroid Pallas”
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached its target, asteroid Bennu (101955 Bennu), on December 3rd, 2018. Since then, the spacecraft has been examining the asteroid’s surface, looking for a suitable landing spot to collect a sample. The problem is, Bennu has a much rockier and challenging surface than initially thought.
Continue reading “OSIRIS-REx Flew 620 Meters Above its Landing Site. Confirms that it’s a Boulder-Strewn Nightmare, Just Like the Rest of Bennu”
Which camp are you in: volcanoes? Or asteroids?
When it comes to the extinction of the dinosaurs, science has whittled it down to those two possibilities. The asteroid strike has been the leading candidate for quite some time now, but those darn volcanoes refuse to stand down.
A new study is presenting even more evidence that it was the impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, and not volcanoes.
Continue reading “The Evidence is Leaning More and More Towards an Asteroid Ending the Dinosaurs”
Astronomers at Caltech’s Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) have discovered an asteroid that orbits inside Venus. Though other asteroids have a portion of their orbit inside Venus’, this is the first one with an orbit that is completely inside Venus’ orbit. The new object is named 2020 AV2.
Continue reading “An Asteroid has been Found that Orbits the Sun Closer than Venus”
NASA has chosen the sampling site for its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. After narrowing it down to four potential sites and examining them in detail, they’ve settled on one location. Their choice? Nightingale.
Continue reading “The Site Has Been Chosen! Here’s Where OSIRIS-REx is Going To Take a Sample from Bennu”
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu in December 2018, and just one week later, it discovered something unusual about Bennu: the asteroid was ejecting particles into space.
The spacecraft’s navigation camera first spotted the particles, but scientists initially thought they were just stars in the background. After closer scrutiny, the OSIRIS-REx team realized they were particles of rock, and were concerned that they might pose a hazard.
Continue reading “Why Are Particles Getting Ejected Off of Asteroid Bennu?”
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx arrived at asteroid Bennu in December 2018. During the past year, it’s been imaging the surface of the asteroid extensively, looking for a spot to take a sample from. Though the spacecraft has multiple science objectives, and a suite of instruments to meet them, the sample return is the key objective.
Now, NASA has narrowed the choice down to four potential sampling locations on the surface of the asteroid.
Continue reading “It’s Time to Decide. Where Should OSIRIS-REx Take a Sample from Bennu?”
It is a well-known astronomical convention that Earth has only one natural satellite, which is known (somewhat uncreatively) as “the Moon”. However, astronomers have known for a little over a decade that Earth also has a population of what are known as “transient Moons”. These are a subset of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that are temporarily scooped up by Earth’s gravity and assume orbits around our planet.
According to a new study by a team of Finish and American astronomers, these temporarily-captured orbiters (TCOs) could be studied with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) in Chile – which is expected to become operational by 2020. By examining these objects with the next-generation telescope, the study’s authors argue that we stand to learn a great deal about NEOs and even begin conducting missions to them.
Continue reading “The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Could Find More of Earth’s Transient Moons”
Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is on its way home. The asteroid-visiting, sample-return mission departed asteroid Ryugu (162173 Ryugu) on Wednesday, beginning its year-long journey back to Earth. And it’s carrying some precious cargo.
Continue reading “It’s Time for Hayabusa-2 to Come Home”
For over a century, proponents of Panspermia have argued that life is distributed throughout our galaxy by comets, asteroids, space dust, and planetoids. But in recent years, scientists have argued that this type of distribution may go beyond star systems and be intergalactic in scale. Some have even proposed intriguing new mechanisms for how this distribution could take place.
For instance, it is generally argued that meteorite and asteroid impacts are responsible for kicking up the material that would transport microbes to other planets. However, in a recent study, two Harvard astronomers examine the challenges that this would present and suggest another means – Earth-grazing objects that collect microbes from our atmosphere and then get flung into deep-space.
Continue reading “Comets and Interstellar Objects Could be Exporting Earth Life Out into the Milky Way”