Using nuclear devices to deflect or disrupt an asteroid. Sounds a bit crazy, no? Maybe a little too Hollywood? And yet, detonating nukes in space may be necessary someday for the sake of planetary defense. In order for this method to be effective, scientists need to work out all the particulars in advance. That means knowing how much force will be necessary depending on the mass and trajectory of the asteroid.
Recently, a research collaboration between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) investigated how the energy output of a nuclear detonation could affect the path of an asteroid. This consisted of modeling different nuclear reactions (fission or fusion) to determine the neutron energy generated, which could potentially pave the way for a new type of asteroid redirect mission (ARM).
Continue reading “If you Want to Move an Asteroid, you Need the Right Kind of Nuclear Explosion”
The effects of ancient asteroid impacts on Earth are still evident from the variety of impact craters across our planet. And from the Chelyabinsk event back in 2013, where an asteroid exploded in the air above a Russian town, we know how devastating an “airburst” event can be.
Now, researchers in Antarctica have discovered evidence of a strange intermediate-type event – a combination of an impact and an airburst. The event was so devastating, its effects are still apparent even though it took place 430,000 years ago.
Continue reading “100-meter Asteroid Created a Strange Impact Event in Antarctica 430,000 Years Ago”
Whenever I wipe the dust off my coffee table or catch a glimpse of dust motes floating in sunlight, my spacey mind always wonders, is any of that cosmic dust?
It just might be. But the amount of space dust that lands on our planet every year might surprise you.
Continue reading “Earth Gains 5,200 Tons of Dust From Space Every Year”
After more than two years in orbit around asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is ready to come home. It’s bringing with it a pristine sample of space rocks that geologists here on Earth are eager to study up close. The sample will arrive in September 2023, but we won’t have to wait nearly that long for new data from OSIRIS-REx. Last week, the probe carried out one final flyby of Bennu, in an effort to photograph the sample collection site. The photographs are being downlinked now, and should be here by midweek.
If you’ve been following the OSIRIS-REx mission, you probably already know why scientists are keen to see these photographs, but if you haven’t, hold on to your hats – it’s a wild story.
Continue reading “OSIRIS-REx Did One Last Close Flyby of Asteroid Bennu. It’s Almost Time to Come Home”
Planetary systems form out of the remnant gas and dust of a primordial star. The material collapses into a protoplanetary disk around the young star, and the clumps that form within the disk eventually become planets, asteroids, or other bodies. Although we understand the big picture of planetary formation, we’ve yet to fully understand the details. That’s because the details are complicated.
Continue reading “Primordial Asteroids That Never Suffered Massive Collisions all Seem to be Larger Than 100 km. Why?”
If you’re looking for doomsday, you can forget about asteroid Apophis. The latest radar observations have effectively ruled out any possibility of this near-Earth object (NEO) hitting Earth for the foreseeable future.
Continue reading “Careful Calculations Show That Earth is Safe From Asteroid Apophis for at Least 100 Years”
Panspermia is an idea that has been around for a long time. It was first mentioned in the 5th century BC by Anaxagoras, one of the most prominent pre-Socratic philosophers. The problem with the theory is that there’s never really been any evidence to back it up. That lack of evidence has changed dramatically in the last 20 or so years, and recently more data has been added to that dataset. A team from Royal Holloway, part of the University of London, found organic material and water in a sample of Itokawa, the asteroid the first Hayabusa mission visited over 10 years ago.
Continue reading “Organic Material Found on an Asteroid Sample Returned by Hayabusa 1”
For decades scientists have believed that an asteroid impact event ended the era of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Now, analysis from the crater site itself seals the deal: the same elements that were deposited around the world from the impact have been found inside the crater itself.
Continue reading “Dust in the Chixalub Crater Makes the Compelling Case That an Asteroid Wiped out the Dinosaurs 65 Million Years ago”
Jupiter is notorious for capturing objects that venture too close to the gas giant and its enormous pull of gravity. Asteroids known as Jupiter Trojans are a large group of space rocks that have been snared by the planet, which usually remain in a stable orbit near one of the Jupiter’s Lagrangian points.
But now, the Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a comet near Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid population. This is the first time a comet has been found in this region, and the team of scientists studying the object – named P/2019 LD2 (LD2) – think the unexpected comet is only a temporary visitor.
Continue reading “Jupiter has Added a Comet to its Trojan Collection”
A new study out this month suggests that Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids may be more peculiar than previously thought. The Trojan asteroids are rocky objects which orbit the Sun just ahead of and just behind the gas giant, in gravitational sweet spots known as Lagrange points. The swarm ahead of Jupiter, known as the L4 (Greek) group, is slightly larger than the L5 (Trojan) swarm behind, but until now, astronomers believed that there was otherwise little differentiation between the two swarms. The paper released this month appears to change that.
Continue reading “Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids Offer Surprises Even Before NASA’s Lucy Mission has a Chance to Visit Them.”