Here’s DART’s First Picture From Space. We Are Already Looking Forward to its Last Image

It might not look like much, but here is the first monumental image from the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). Earlier this month, a circular door covering the aperture of its DRACO telescopic camera was opened, allowing the camera to take its first image.  

Now, imagine what the camera’s last image will be like: a REALLY closeup view of a binary asteroid system, Didymos and especially, its moonlet Dimorphos. The goal of DART is to intentionally collide with Dimorphos. If everything goes according to plan, this will alter the asteroid’s motion so that ground-based telescopes can accurately measure any changes.

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NASA’s New Asteroid Impact Monitoring System Comes Online

An asteroid striking Earth is a genuine possibility. There are tens of thousands of asteroids classified as Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs), and we’re finding around 3,000 more each year. The number of new detections will see an uptick in the next few years as better survey telescopes come online.

Now NASA has developed a new system to classify all those asteroids and better evaluate impact probabilities.

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Asteroid Apophis’ 2029 Flyby Will Provide a Bonanza of Asteroid Science

If NASA and other space agencies don’t want us to freak out about asteroids colliding with Earth, why do they give them names like Apophis? It sounds apocalyptic.

Apophis was the ancient Egyptian god of Chaos. He was an evil serpent that dwelled in endless darkness, the enemy of light and truth. So when they informed us that an asteroid named Apophis was due for a close encounter with Earth in 2029, people were understandably anxious. After all, Earth’s previous dominant inhabitants were evicted by an asteroid.

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Did the Earth’s Water Come From the Sun?

Where did Earth’s water come from? Comets may have brought some of it. Asteroids may have brought some. Icy planetesimals may have played a role by crashing into the young Earth and depositing their water. Hydrogen from inside the Earth may have contributed, too. Another hypothesis states the collision that formed the Moon gave Earth its water.

There’s evidence to back up all of these hypotheses.

But new research suggests that the Sun and its Solar Wind may have helped delivered some water, too.

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An Upcoming Asteroid Mission Will be Able to Peer 100 Meters Under the Surface

Engineers only get one shot at making a spacecraft work as intended.  Or at least they only get one shot in space.  In the preparation leading up to that final, climactic moment, there are typically thousands of hours of tests run on numerous systems and subsystems.  If all goes well, it bodes well for the mission’s overall success, but if problems arise, it’s much easier to address them on the ground than while a spacecraft is already orbiting.  A model of a new spacecraft known as Juventas just completed a significant testing milestone – passing testing in a room known as an anechoic chamber.  

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NASA Launches DART, to Learn how to Defend the Earth From a Future Asteroid Impact

In the early hours of the morning on Wednesday, Nov. 24th, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) launched from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base (SFB) in California. This spacecraft is the world’s first full-scale mission to demonstrate technologies that could someday be used to defend our planet from Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) that could potentially collide with Earth.

Put simply, the DART mission is a kinetic impactor that will evaluate a proposed method for deflecting asteroids. Over the next ten months, the DART mission will autonomously navigate towards the target asteroid – the binary NEA (65803) Didymos – and intentionally collide with it. If everything goes according to plan, this will alter the asteroid’s motion so that ground-based telescopes can accurately measure any changes.

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Early Earth was Pummeled 10x More Than Previously Estimated

It’s no secret that Earth was bombarded with plenty of meteors for billions of years during the solar system’s early formation.  Estimates vary on how much material impacted the planet, but it had a considerable effect on the planet’s atmosphere and the evolution of life. Now, a new study from a team led by researchers at the Southwest Research Institute puts the number at almost ten times the number of previously estimated impacts.  That much of a difference could dramatically change how geologists and planetary scientists view the early Earth.

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Uh oh, one of Lucy’s Solar Arrays Hasn’t Latched Properly

As we’re fond of saying here at UT, space exploration is hard. Many things can go wrong when launching thousands of kgs of highly engineered equipment that took years to develop into space.  Now, something seems to have gone wrong with NASA’s latest Discovery mission.  Lucy, launched successfully by a ULA rocket on October 16th, seems to have a solar panel that didn’t quite “latch.”

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What Are Your Options When you’ve Only Got Hours or Days to Prevent an Asteroid Impact?

Imagine a scenario where we detect an asteroid heading straight for Earth. Imagine that it will arrive in a couple of days, or worse, only a few hours. What could be done to stop it?

It might be possible to protect ourselves and the planet on such short notice. But we’d have to test and build the right infrastructure to do it.

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