It is as inevitable as the rising of the Sun and the turning of the tides. Someday another large rock from space will crash into the Earth. It has happened for billions of years in the past and will continue to happen for billions of years into the future. So far humanity has been lucky, as we have not had to face such a catastrophic threat. But if we are to survive on this planet for the long term, we will have to come to terms with the reality of hazardous asteroids and prepare ourselves.Continue reading “Astronomers Prepare for the Next Thousand Years of Hazardous Asteroid Impacts”
The European Space Agency is working on a new mission that would act as an early warning system for dangerous, hard-to-see asteroids. Called NEOMIR (Near-Earth Object Mission in the InfraRed), the spacecraft would orbit between the Earth and the Sun at the L1 Lagrange Point, finding space rocks that otherwise get lost in the glare of the Sun.Continue reading “ESA is Building an Early Warning System for Dangerous Asteroids”
Even from beyond the grave, Arecibo is still contributing to new discoveries. Back in October, researchers released a “treasure trove of data” from what was then the world’s most powerful radio telescope on the radar signatures of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs). Not only will these observations help defend the planet if any of those asteroids happen to be hazardous, but they can also help the burgeoning asteroid mining industry scan for targets.Continue reading “Arecibo Studied 191 Asteroids That Flew Past the Earth. All the Data are Available in a new Paper”
About a decade ago, the prospect of “asteroid mining” saw a massive surge in interest. This was due largely to the rise of the commercial space sector and the belief that harvesting resources from space would soon become a reality. What had been the stuff of science fiction and futurist predictions was now being talked about seriously in the business sector, with many claiming that the future of resource exploitation and manufacturing lay in space. Since then, there’s been a bit of a cooling off as these hopes failed to materialize in the expected timeframe.
Nevertheless, there is little doubt that a human presence in space will entail harvesting resources from Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and beyond. In a recent paper, a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China, examined the potential impact of asteroid mining on the global economy. Based on their detailed assessment that includes market forces, environmental impact, asteroid and mineral type, and the scale of mining, they show how asteroid mining can be done in a way that is consistent with the Outer Space Treaty (i.e., for the benefit of all humanity).Continue reading “What Would Asteroid Mining do to the World's Economy?”
An asteroid 1.5 km across is no joke. Even a much smaller one, about the size of a house, can explode with more power than the first nuclear weapons. When an asteroid is greater than 1 km in diameter, astronomers call them “planet-killers.” The impact energy released from a planet-killer striking Earth would be devastating, so knowing where these asteroids are and where they’re headed is critically important.
Our defensive capability against asteroid strikes is in its infancy, so advance notice of asteroids that could cross Earth’s orbit is critical. We’ll need time to prepare.Continue reading “Three New Potentially Hazardous Asteroids Discovered, Including a big one That Measures 1.5 km Across”
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!Continue reading “DART Sees Asteroid Didymos for the First Time. In two Weeks, it’ll Crash Into its Moon”
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.)Continue reading “Two Spacecraft Could Work Together to Capture an Asteroid and Bring it Close to Earth for Mining”
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.Continue reading “Samples of Asteroid Ryugu Contain More Than 20 Amino Acids”
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.Continue reading “20% of Twilight Observations Contain Satellite Passes”
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.Continue reading “What Are Your Options When you’ve Only Got Hours or Days to Prevent an Asteroid Impact?”