‘Oumuamua caused quite a stir when it visited our Solar System in 2017. It didn’t stay long, however, and when it was spotted with the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii on October 19th, it was already leaving. But its appearance in our part of the Universe spawned a lot of conjecture on its nature and its origins.Continue reading “Astronomers Finally Think They Understand Where Interstellar Object Oumuamua Came From and How it Formed”
Late last summer, NASA and the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (a.k.a WGPSN) approved the naming convention for features on Bennu, the asteroid currently being orbited and studied by the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft. The naming theme chosen was “birds and bird-like creatures in mythology.”
The first twelve features thusly named have now been announced. But more importantly, some of these features will be instrumental in helping to guide OSIRIS-REx to the surface of the asteroid later this year.Continue reading “Asteroid Bennu is Getting Some Official Names for its Surface Features”
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is getting closer, physically and temporally, to its primary goal. The spacecraft arrived at Bennu at the end of 2018, and for just over a year it’s been studying the asteroid, searching for a suitable sampling site. To do that, it’s getting closer and closer.Continue reading “OSIRIS-REx did its Closest Flyover Yet, just 250 Meters Above its Sample Site”
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”
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 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?”
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”
On June 27th, 2018, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency‘s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft reached asteroid 162173 Ryugu. As part of JAXA’s program to study Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs), this mission has spent over a year conducting landing operations, shooting up the surface with “bullets” and an anti-tank warhead, and collecting samples from the surface and interior that will eventually be returned to Earth.
This past Monday (Sept. 16th), Hayabusa2 released two target markers as part of its “target marker separation operation” (which ran from Sept. 12th to Sept. 17th). This consisted of two 10 cm (4 in) balls covered in reflective material being released in orbit around Ryugu. This operation puts the mission a step closer to the deployment of the mission’s MINERVA-II2 Rover-2, which will be landing on the asteroid’s surface next month.Continue reading “Hayabusa 2 has one Last Lander it’s Going to Throw at Ryugu”
Remember the asteroid Psyche? It’s the largest known asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It’s been in the news because of its unusual properties, and because NASA plans to launch a mission to Psyche in 2022.
Psyche, aka 16 Psyche, is unusual because it’s quite different from other asteroids. Psyche appears to be the remnant, exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet. Because of that, Psyche is a building block left over from the early Solar System, when planets were still forming. It’s like a planet without a crust.Continue reading “Metallic Asteroids Might Have Had Volcanoes Erupting Molten Iron. That’s So Metal”