DART Sees Asteroid Didymos for the First Time. In two Weeks, it’ll Crash Into its Moon

This image of the light from asteroid Didymos and its orbiting moonlet Dimorphos. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DART Navigation Team

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is on its way to rendezvous with the double-asteroid Didymos. When it arrives on September 26th, DART will collide with Dimorphos – the 160-meter (525-foot) moonlet that orbits the main body – to evaluate the kinetic impact technique for the very first time. This proposed method of planetary defense consists of a spacecraft colliding with an asteroid to alter its orbit and prevent it from colliding with Earth. In July, DART took its first image of the double-asteroid, which NASA released earlier this week!

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Two Spacecraft Could Work Together to Capture an Asteroid and Bring it Close to Earth for Mining

Mining asteroids might be necessary for humanity to expand into the Solar System. A new paper says spacecraft could work in pairs to capture Near Earth Asteroids. Credit: ESA.

Humanity seems destined to expand into the Solar System. What exactly that looks like, and how difficult and tumultuous the endeavour might be, is wide open to speculation. But there are some undeniable facts attached to the prospect.

We need materials to build infrastructure, and getting it all into space from Earth is not realistic. (Be quiet, space elevator people.)

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Samples of Asteroid Ryugu Contain More Than 20 Amino Acids

Artist's impression of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft touching down on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. Credit: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita?

In 2014, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) dispatched its Hayabusa2 spacecraft to rendezvous with 162173 Ryugu, a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) that periodically passes close to Earth. In 2018, this sample-return mission reached Ryugu and spent the next year and a half studying its surface and obtaining samples from its surface and subsurface. By 2020, these samples made it back to Earth, where scientists began analyzing them in the hopes of learning more about the early history of the Solar System and answering key questions about the origins of life.

Earlier this year, the first results of the analysis showed that Ryugu is (as expected) rich in carbon, organic molecules, and volatiles (like water) and hinted at the possibility that it was once a comet. Based on a more recent analysis, eight teams of Japanese researchers (including one from JAXA) recently announced that Ryugu carries strains of no less than 20 different amino acids -the building blocks of DNA and life itself! These findings could provide new insight into how life is distributed throughout the cosmos and could mean that it is more common than previously thought.

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20% of Twilight Observations Contain Satellite Passes

Starlink trails and a meteor as seen from Brazil. Credit: Egon Filter

With the rapid expansion of commercial space, there is a growing number of satellites in orbit around our planet. Most of these are in low-Earth orbit, which is becoming increasingly crowded. This has led some to be concerned about a catastrophic rise of space debris, as well as a growing frustration by astronomers due to the number of satellite sky trails.

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

Mining asteroids might be necessary for humanity to expand into the Solar System. A new paper says spacecraft could work in pairs to capture Near Earth Asteroids. Credit: ESA.

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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You Can Blow Up an Asteroid Just a few Months Before it Hits Earth and Prevent 99% of the Damage

An artist's impression of a Nearth-Earth Asteroid (NEA) breaking up. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

So far, the battle between life on Earth and asteroids has been completely one-sided. But not for long. Soon, we’ll have the capability to deter asteroids from undesirable encounters with Earth. And while conventional thinking has said that the further away the better when it comes to intercepting one, we can’t assume we’ll always have enough advance warning.

A new study says we might be able to safely destroy potentially dangerous rocky interlopers, even when they get closer to Earth than we’d like.

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There are Many Metal-Rich Asteroids Nearby to Investigate

Usually, when the topic of asteroid mining comes up, thoughts turn to the riches of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  The sheer size and scale of the available resources in these asteroids are astounding and overshadow a much more accessible resource – Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) that are much closer to home. Now a team from the University of Arizona (UA) has spent some time looking at these near neighbors and realized some are very similar to one of the most famous asteroids in the belt – Psyche.

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NASA has Approved a Space Telescope That Will Scan the Skies for Dangerous Near-Earth Asteroids

An artist's illustration of the NEO Surveyor, a space telescope designed to detect and catalogue NEOs. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

A lot of the threats humanity faces come from ourselves. If we were listing them, we’d include tribalism, greed, and the fact that we’re evolved primates, and our brains have a lot in common with animal brains. Our animalistic brains subject us to many of the same destructive emotions and impulses that animals are subject to. We wage war and become embroiled in intergenerational conflicts. There are genocides, pogroms, doomed boatloads of migrants, and horrible mashups of all three.

Isn’t humanity fun?

But not all of the threats we face are as intractable as our internal ones. Some threats are external, and we can leverage our technologies and our knowledge of nature in the struggle against them. Case in point: asteroids.

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Astronomers Have Discovered a 2-km Asteroid Orbiting Closer to the Sun than Venus

NEO asteroid
An artist's conception of an NEO asteroid orbiting the Sun. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Astronomers have painstakingly built models of the asteroid population, and those models predict that there will be ~1 km sized asteroids that orbit closer to the Sun than Venus does. The problem is, nobody’s been able to find one. Until now.

Astronomers working with the Zwicky Transient Facility say they’ve finally found one. But this one’s bigger, at about 2 km. If its existence can be confirmed, then asteroid population models may have to be updated.

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An Asteroid has been Found that Orbits the Sun Closer than Venus

2020 AV2 orbits entirely within the orbit of Venus. Image Credit: Bryce Bolin/Caltech

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.

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