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  • richardmitnick 9:15 am on July 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , , ,   

    From phys.org: “We will find organic materials on Asteroid Bennu, says OSIRIS-REx principal investigator” 

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    July 27, 2015
    Tomasz Nowakowski

    1
    OSIRIS-REx

    (Phys.org)—In September 2016, NASA plans to launch its first-ever asteroid sample return mission loaded with tasks that will help us better understand the composition of asteroids, their origin, and possibly even Earth’s origin. The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission designed to study asteroids, which are the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, could teach us a lot about the history of the sun and planets.

    The spacecraft, equipped with scientific instruments to map the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and to detect minerals and organic molecules that could be the signs of microbial life, is slated to reach its target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023. It will bring back at least a 2.1-ounce sample to study.

    One of the instruments, the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) is designed to measure visible and near infrared light from the asteroid, to identify which chemicals are present on the space rock.

    NASA OSIRIS-REX OVIRS
    OVIRS

    The mission’s principal investigator, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the rest of the team are convinced that OSIRIS-REx will succeed in finding organic materials on Bennu.

    “We definitely believe we will find organic materials on Bennu and OVIRS’s job is to find and identify these organics,” Lauretta told Phys.org.

    Bennu is a carbon-rich asteroid that records the earliest history of our solar system because its composition probably has remained unchanged since it formed some four billion years ago. It could contain natural resources such as water, organics and precious metals—precursors to the origin of life. So could we even find primitive, microbial lifeforms on Bennu?

    Lauretta debunks this suggestion. He is convinced it is unlikely to find life in such a harsh space environment.

    “We are also confident that microbial life does not exist on Bennu. A body the size of Bennu has too little atmosphere and gravity to protect any known life form from the ravages of space,” Lauretta noted.

    To better identify chemicals on Bennu, the OVIRS instrument will split the light from the asteroid into its component wavelengths, similar to a prism that splits sunlight into a rainbow, but over a much broader range of wavelengths. Different chemicals express unique spectral signatures by absorbing sunlight and can be identified in the reflected spectrum.

    “In particular, we are looking to find the areas of Bennu rich in organic molecules to identify possible sample sites of high science value, but the instrument will also help us understand the general composition of Bennu,” Lauretta said. “Besides OVIRS, OSIRIS-REx has four other science instruments on board. They will all survey Bennu to determine its form, composition and make-up.”

    OTES (OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer), from Arizona State University, will provide mineral and temperature information by collecting infrared spectral data from Bennu. According to Lauretta, thermal data from OTES will allow scientists to determine the mineral composition and temperature distribution of Bennu for global maps and local candidate sample-site areas.

    NASA OSIRIS REX OTES
    OTES

    Another instrument named OCAMS (OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite), built by the University of Arizona, is a suite of three cameras that will provide global image mapping and sample site imaging. It will also record the entire sampling procedure.

    “These cameras will give us the best up-close visuals of the asteroid that we have to date,” Lauretta revealed.

    OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter or OLA, is a scanning LIDAR (remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light), developed by the Canadian Space Agency. It will provide the mission with high-resolution topographical information about Bennu and will also help with sample site selection.

    NASA OSIRIS REX OLA
    OLA

    The fifth asteroid-exploring instrument – REXIS (Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer), was built jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Harvard College Observatory. REXIS will determine the elements that are present on Bennu and will complement the mineral mapping provided by OVIRS and OTES.

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is now in the assembly, testing, and launch operations phase. To be fully ready for a demanding trip and scientific operations at its target asteroid, all the instruments need to be thoroughly tested after installation to ensure that they interact properly with all of the other systems on the spacecraft.

    “OTES was installed in late June and the OVIRS instrument was delivered in early July. OCAMS and REXIS will be installed in late summer and OLA will be delivered in the fall,” Lauretta said.

    After all the instruments are installed, the spacecraft will then go through system level environmental testing until next May, when it is scheduled to be shipped to Cape Canaveral, Florida. There, it will be mated to the Atlas V rocket and readied for our launch in September 2016.

    See the full article here.

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:07 am on July 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , , ,   

    From NASA Goddard: “Second Instrument Delivered for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    Goddard Space Flight Center

    July 8, 2015
    Nancy Neal Jones
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
    301-286-0039
    Nancy.N.Jones@nasa.gov

    1
    The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) will measure visible and near infrared light from the asteroid Bennu. The instrument’s observations could be used to identify water and organic materials. This image shows OVIRS at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where it was built, prior to shipping to Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver.
    Credits: NASA Goddard/Bill Hrybyk

    The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) measures visible and near infrared light from Bennu, which can be used to identify water and organic materials. Goddard built the instrument.

    OVIRS, a point spectrometer, will split the light from the asteroid Bennu into its component wavelengths, similar to a prism that splits sunlight into a rainbow, but over a much broader range of wavelengths. Different chemicals have unique spectral signatures by absorbing sunlight and can be identified in the reflected spectrum. The spectra provided by the instrument will help guide sample site selection.

    NASA Osiris -REx
    OSIRIS-REx

    “Through the team’s efforts, OVIRS has become a remarkably capable instrument which we expect to return exciting science from the asteroid, Bennu,” said Dennis Reuter, OVIRS instrument lead from Goddard.

    After thorough testing with the spacecraft on the ground, the instrument will be powered on for check-out shortly after launch, with first science data collected during the Earth gravity assist in September 2017.

    OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to return samples from an asteroid to Earth for study. The mission is scheduled for launch in September 2016. It will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

    The spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, called Bennu and bring at least a 2.1-ounce sample back to Earth for study. The mission will help scientists investigate the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made their way to Earth, and improve understanding of asteroids that could impact our planet.

    “The delivery of OVIRS to the spacecraft means the mission now has the capability to measure the minerals and chemicals at the sample site on Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “I greatly appreciate the hard work and innovation the OVIRS team demonstrated during the creation of this instrument.”

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    For more information on OSIRIS-REx visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

    and

    http://www.asteroidmission.org

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus
    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 8:26 am on May 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , ,   

    From U Heidelberg: “Asteroid Research Benefits From Gaia Satellite Mission” 

    U Heidelberg bloc

    University of Heidelberg

    20 May 2015
    No Writer Credit

    Scientists discover dozens of small celestial bodies every night

    ESA Gaia satellite
    ESA/Gaia

    Astronomical research on asteroids, i.e. minor planets, is also benefiting from the large-scale Gaia mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). Even though the astrometry satellite’s main purpose is to precisely measure nearly one billion stars in the Milky Way, it has tracked down a multitude of minor planets in our solar system. To determine its current position in space and thus ensure Gaia’s extremely high measurement accuracy, images are taken every day of the regions of the sky where the very faint satellite is located. “Each night the images reveal several dozen minor planets. The data are quite valuable for our understanding of the origin of our solar system,” says Dr. Martin Altmann of the Institute for Astronomical Computing (ARI), which is part of the Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University. Dr. Altmann heads the observation programme to determine the position of the Gaia satellite for the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC), which is responsible for evaluating the data from Gaia.

    The Gaia astrometry satellite, which has been fully operational since August 2014, measures with pinpoint accuracy the positions, movements and distances of stars in the Milky Way, thereby furnishing the basis for a three-dimensional map of our home galaxy. According to Dr. Altmann, it became clear during preparation for the Gaia mission that the ambitious accuracy goals required novel methods to determine the position and velocity of the satellite itself. For this purpose an observation campaign was launched to determine Gaia’s position and velocity from Earth. As early as 2009, Dr. Altmann of the ARI and his colleague Dr. Sebastien Bouquillon of the Observatoire de Paris (France) began planning the programme together with an international team. Among the partners for the implementation, they attracted observatories in Chile and Spain. The Institute for Astronomical Computing is responsible for coordinating the daily observations. Since the launch of Gaia in December 2013, Gaia’s ground-based position measurements are transmitted regularly to mission control, the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt.

    Dr. Altmann explains that the astrometry satellite is at a distance of approximately 1.5 million kilometres and is always located in the region of space away from the Sun as viewed from the Earth. “For this reason Gaia’s positioning images are also perfect for observing minor planets. This so-called oppositional position brings these celestial bodies closer to Earth, making them appear brighter than at other times,” continues the Heidelberg researcher. More than 2,000 small planets have been found this way since the beginning of this year, mainly on images from the VST telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile.

    ESO VST telescope
    ESO VST

    Dr. Altmann indicates that nearly 40 per cent of them are new discoveries. Moreover, these current measurements are especially interesting for already known minor planets as well, precisely because Gaia and the minor planets located in the same part of space are always opposite the sun at the time of observation. Just like with the full moon, the planets’ entire earthward side is completely illuminated only at that location. This allows the researchers to measure the asteroid’s reflectivity very accurately and draw conclusions as to their chemical composition. Up to now only approximately 30 asteroids have their reflectivity sufficiently well-determined, according to Dr. Altmann.

    The Gaia astrometry satellite itself will also discover and accurately measure many asteroids in its survey of the sky, but in totally different regions. “In this respect, the observations from the Gaia mission and the ground-based measurements complement each other extremely well,” says Dr. Altmann. “We hope not only to acquire new insight into the origins of our home galaxy through the Gaia satellite mission. We will certainly learn more about the origins of our solar system,” stresses Prof. Dr. Stefan Jordan of the Institute for Astronomical Computing, whose responsibilities also include public relations for the DPAC Consortium.

    See the full article here.

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    U Heidelberg Campus

    Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University, a state university of BadenWürttemberg, is Germany’s oldest university. In continuing its timehonoured tradition as a research university of international standing the Ruprecht-Karls-University’s mission is guided by the following principles:
    Firmly rooted in its history, the University is committed to expanding and disseminating our knowledge about all aspects of humanity and nature through research and education. The University upholds the principle of freedom of research and education, acknowledging its responsibility to humanity, society, and nature.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:12 pm on April 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Asteroids,   

    From New Scientist: “Falling meteor may have changed the course of Christianity” 

    NewScientist

    New Scientist

    22 April 2015
    Jacob Aron

    The early evangelist Paul became a Christian because of a dazzling light on the road to Damascus, but one astronomer thinks it was an exploding meteor.

    NEARLY two thousand years ago, a man named Saul had an experience that changed his life, and possibly yours as well. According to Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the biblical New Testament, Saul was on the road to Damascus, Syria, when he saw a bright light in the sky, was blinded and heard the voice of Jesus. Changing his name to Paul, he became a major figure in the spread of Christianity.

    William Hartmann, co-founder of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, has a different explanation for what happened to Paul. He says the biblical descriptions of Paul’s experience closely match accounts of the fireball meteor seen above Chelyabinsk, in 2013.

    Hartmann has detailed his argument in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science (doi.org/3vn). He analyses three accounts of Paul’s journey, thought to have taken place around AD 35. The first is a third-person description of the event, thought to be the work of one of Jesus’s disciples, Luke. The other two quote what Paul is said to have subsequently told others.

    “Everything they are describing in those three accounts in the book of Acts are exactly the sequence you see with a fireball,” Hartmann says. “If that first-century document had been anything other than part of the Bible, that would have been a straightforward story.”

    But the Bible is not just any ancient text. Paul’s Damascene conversion and subsequent missionary journeys around the Mediterranean helped build Christianity into the religion it is today. If his conversion was indeed as Hartmann explains it, then a random space rock has played a major role in determining the course of history (see “Christianity minus Paul” [below]).

    That’s not as strange as it sounds. A large asteroid impact helped kill off the dinosaurs, paving the way for mammals to dominate the Earth. So why couldn’t a meteor influence the evolution of our beliefs?

    “It’s well recorded that extraterrestrial impacts have helped to shape the evolution of life on this planet,” says Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, Alabama. “If it was a Chelyabinsk fireball that was responsible for Paul’s conversion, then obviously that had a great impact on the growth of Christianity.”

    Hartmann’s argument is possible now because of the quality of observations of the Chelyabinsk incident. The 2013 meteor is the most well-documented example of larger impacts that occur perhaps only once in 100 years. Before 2013, the 1908 blast in TunguskaMovie Camera, also in Russia, was the best example, but it left just a scattering of seismic data, millions of flattened trees and some eyewitness accounts. With Chelyabinsk, there is a clear scientific argument to be made, says Hartmann. “We have observational data that match what we see in this first-century account.”

    1
    Shaping history’s arc: the Chelyabinsk meteor (Image: RIA NovostiI/SPL)

    The most obvious similarity is the bright light in the sky, “brighter than the sun, shining round me”, according to Paul. That’s in line with video from Chelyabinsk showing a light, estimated to be around three times as bright as the sun, that created quickly moving shadows as it streaked across the sky.

    After witnessing the light, Paul and his companions fell to the ground. Hartmann says they may have been knocked over when the meteor exploded in the sky and generated a shock wave. At Chelyabinsk, the shock wave destroyed thousands of windows and knocked people off their feet.

    Paul then heard the voice of Jesus asking why Paul, an anti-Christian zealot to begin with, was persecuting him. The three biblical accounts differ over whether his companions also heard this voice, or a meaningless noise. Chelyabinsk produced a thunderous, explosive sound.

    Paul was also blinded, with one account blaming the brightness of the light. A few days later, “something like scales fell from his eye and he regained his sight”. Our common idiom for suddenly understanding something stems from this description, but Hartmann says the phrase can be read literally. He suggests that Paul was suffering from photokeratitis, a temporary blindness caused by intense ultraviolet radiation.

    “It’s basically a bit of sunburn on the cornea of the eye. Once that begins to heal, it flakes off,” says Hartmann. “This can be a perfectly literal statement for someone in the first century who doesn’t really understand what’s happening.” The UV radiation at Chelyabinsk was strong enough to cause sunburn, skin peeling and temporary blindness.

    Raj Das-Bhaumik of Moorfields Eye Hospital in London says the condition is common among welders whose eyes are exposed to bright sparks, but the symptoms aren’t exactly as Hartmann is suggesting. “You wouldn’t expect bits of the eye to fall off; I’ve not come across that at all,” he says. It’s possible that the thin skin of the eyelids could burn and peel off, he says, but that is unlikely to happen in isolation. “If this were a meteorite, I’m sure you’d have other damage as well.”

    Mark Bailey of Armagh Observatory in the UK, who previously identified a Tunguska-like event in Brazil in the 1930s, says it’s worth analysing old texts for clues to ancient impacts – bearing in mind that accounts are shaped by what people knew at the time. “Sometimes that doesn’t make sense to us, but it does make sense if you can reinterpret it.” What does he think of Hartmann’s argument? “He does a very detailed analysis,” says Bailey.

    “I would label it as informed speculation – Bill Hartmann is an excellent author,” says Cooke. “But like so many other things in the ancient past there is no real concrete evidence, no smoking gun.” And with no other accounts from the time to draw on, there is little additional evidence to confirm or disprove the idea.

    A search for meteorites in and around Syria could prove fruitful – Chelyabinsk left small chunks all over the region – but even that would be inconclusive. “If a meteorite is discovered in modern Syria in the future, the first thing to test would be how long it’s been on the Earth and whether it could potentially be associated with such a recent fall,” says Bailey. But even with our best techniques, dating such a rock to the nearest hundred years would be difficult.

    Even so, Hartmann believes we need to think seriously about the implications of his idea. “My goal is not to discredit anything that anybody wants to believe in,” he says. “But if the spread of a major religion was motivated by misunderstanding a fireball, that’s something we human beings ought to understand about ourselves.”

    ____________________________________________________________

    Christianity minus Paul

    IF A falling meteor did inspire Paul’s conversion to Christianity (see main story), that makes a random event hugely important in the history of humanity. What if Paul hadn’t seen the fireball?

    “Some scholars call Paul the second founder of Christianity,” says Justin Meggitt, a religious historian at the University of Cambridge. At the time, Christianity was a small offshoot of Judaism, but Paul helped preach a version of it that broke with Jewish law.

    Paul wasn’t the only first-century missionary, and without him Christianity would probably still have separated from Judaism and spread around the world, says Meggitt. But Paul’s teachings have endured through the ages, and their absence would be felt.

    “People’s interpretation of Paul is absolutely fundamental to some of the central figures of Christianity,” says Meggitt. For example, Martin Luther, who started the Protestant Reformation in 1517, was heavily inspired by Paul’s letters.

    Specific predictions about how Christianity and world events would have unfolded without Paul’s influence are hard to make, says Meggitt, but “Christianity probably would be very different without him”.
    ____________________________________________________________

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 8:11 pm on March 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , ,   

    From NASA: “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Passes Critical Milestone” 

    NASA

    NASA

    March 31, 2015

    NASA Osiris -REx
    OSIRIS-REx

    NASA’s groundbreaking science mission to retrieve a sample from an ancient space rock has moved closer to fruition. The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has passed a critical milestone in its path towards launch and is officially authorized to transition into its next phase.

    Key Decision Point-D (KDP-D) occurs after the project has completed a series of independent reviews that cover the technical health, schedule and cost of the project. The milestone represents the official transition from the mission’s development stage to delivery of systems, testing and integration leading to launch. During this part of the mission’s life cycle, known as Phase D, the spacecraft bus, or the structure that will carry the science instruments, is completed, the instruments are integrated into the spacecraft and tested, and the spacecraft is shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with the rocket.

    “This is an exciting time for the OSIRIS-REx team,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-Rex at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “After almost four years of intense design efforts, we are now proceeding with the start of flight system assembly. I am grateful for the hard work and team effort required to get us to this point.”

    OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to return samples from an asteroid to Earth. The spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study. OSIRIS-REx carries five instruments that will remotely evaluate the surface of Bennu. The mission will help scientists investigate the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made their way to Earth, and improve understanding of asteroids that could impact our planet.

    OSIRIS-REx is scheduled for launch in late 2016. The spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

    “The spacecraft structure has been integrated with the propellant tank and propulsion system and is ready to begin system integration in the Lockheed Martin highbay,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The payload suite of cameras and sensors is well into its environmental test phase and will be delivered later this summer/fall.”

    The key decision meeting was held at NASA Headquarters in Washington on March 30 and chaired by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

    On March 27, assembly, launch and test operations officially began at Lockheed Martin in Denver. These operations represent a critical stage of the program when the spacecraft begins to take form, culminating with its launch. Over the next several months, technicians will install the subsystems on the main spacecraft structure, comprising avionics, power, telecomm, thermal systems, and guidance, navigation and control.

    The next major milestone is the Mission Operations Review, scheduled for completion in June. The project will demonstrate that its navigation, planning, commanding, and science operations requirements are complete.

    The mission’s principal investigator is at the University of Arizona, Tucson. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will provide overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

    OSIRIS-REx complements NASA’s Asteroid Initiative, which aligns portions of the agency’s science, space technology and human exploration capabilities in a coordinated asteroid research effort. The initiative will conduct research and analysis to better characterize and mitigate the threat these space rocks pose to our home planet.

    Included in the initiative is NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), a robotic spacecraft mission that will capture a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation’s journey to Mars. The agency also is engaging new industrial capabilities, partnerships, open innovation and participatory exploration through the NASA Asteroid Initiative.

    NASA also has made tremendous progress in the cataloging and characterization of near Earth objects over the past five years. The president’s NASA budget included, and Congress authorized, $20.4 million for an expanded NASA Near-Earth Object (NEO) Observations Program, increasing the resources for this critical program from the $4 million per year it had received since the 1990s. The program was again expanded in fiscal year 2014, with a budget of $40.5 million. NASA is asking Congress for $50 million for this important work in the 2016 budget.

    NASA has identified more than 12,000 NEOs to date, including 96 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) in size. NASA has not detected any objects of this size that pose an impact hazard to Earth in the next 100 years. Smaller asteroids do pass near Earth, however, and some could pose an impact threat. In 2011, 893 near-Earth asteroids were found. In 2014, that number was increased to 1,472.

    In addition to NASA’s ongoing work detecting and cataloging asteroids, the agency has engaged the public in the hunt for these space rocks through the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge activities, including prize competitions. During the recent South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, the agency announced the release of a software application based on an algorithm created by a NASA challenge that has the potential to increase the number of new asteroid discoveries by amateur astronomers.

    For more information about the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

    and

    http://asteroidmission.org

    For more information about the ARM and NASA’s Asteroid Initiative, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative

    See the full article here.

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    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:12 am on March 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , ,   

    From NASA: “NASA Asteroid Hunter Spacecraft Data Available to Public” 

    NASA

    NASA

    March 26, 2015
    Dwayne Brown
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    DC Agle
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-9011
    agle@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    The NEOWISE spacecraft viewed comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) for a second time on January 30, 2015, as the comet passed through the closest point to our sun along its 14,000-year orbit, at a solar distance of 120 million miles (193 million kilometers). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Millions of images of celestial objects, including asteroids, observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft now are available online to the public. The data was collected following the restart of the asteroid-seeking spacecraft in December 2013 after a lengthy hibernation.

    NASA NEOWISE
    NEOWISE

    The collection of millions of infrared images and billions of infrared measurements of asteroids, stars, galaxies and quasars spans data obtained between December 13, 2013, and December 13, 2014.

    “One of the most satisfying things about releasing these cutting-edge astronomical data to the public is seeing what other exciting and creative projects the scientific community does with them,” said Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California.

    In the first year of the survey, NEOWISE captured 2.5 million image sets, detecting and providing data on over 10,000 solar system objects. The data revealed 129 new solar system objects, including 39 previously undiscovered near-Earth objects. Each of the images also contains a multitude of background stars, nebulae and galaxies. More than 10 billion measurements of these more distant objects are contained in the release of the NEOWISE data.

    “And we’re far from finished,” said Mainzer. “We’re only into our second year of additional science collection, and we’ve already added another 21 new discoveries including six new near-Earth objects.”

    NEOWISE is a space telescope that scans the skies for asteroids and comets. The telescope sees infrared light, which allows it to pick up the heat signature of asteroids and obtain better estimates of their true sizes. As a result, NEOWISE can see dark asteroids that are harder for visible-light surveys to find. Nearly all of the NEOWISE discoveries have been large –hundreds of yards, or meters, wide– and very dark, similar to printer toner. When NEOWISE’s infrared data on an object is combined with that of a visible-light optical telescope, it helps scientists understand the object’s composition.

    NEOWISE always looks in the dawn and twilight skies – the direction perpendicular to a line between Earth and the sun. This unique vantage point makes it possible for NEOWISE to spot objects that approach Earth from the direction of the sun, unlike ground-based telescopes that are only able to view the night sky.

    Originally called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the spacecraft was placed in hibernation in 2011 after its primary mission was completed. In September 2013, it was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a new mission to assist NASA’s efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects and help characterize previously known asteroids and comets to provide information about their sizes and compositions.

    NASA Wednesday announced more details in its plan for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which in the mid-2020s will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars. For ARM, a robotic spacecraft will capture a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation’s journey to Mars. The agency plans to announce the specific asteroid selected for the mission no earlier than 2019, approximately a year before launching the robotic spacecraft.

    NASA also announced it has increased the detection of near-Earth Asteroids by 65 percent since launching its asteroid initiative three years ago.

    “NEOWISE is a vital asset in NASA’s program to find objects that truly represent an impact hazard to Earth,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Object Observation Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The data reveals how far we’ve come to understand the danger to Earth but it will still take a concerted effort to find all of them that could do serious damage.”

    In 2012, the president’s NASA budget included, and Congress authorized, $20.4 million for an expanded NASA Near-Earth Object (NEO) Observations Program, increasing the resources for this critical program from the $4 million per year it had received since the 1990s. The program was again expanded in fiscal year 2014, with a budget of $40.5 million. NASA is asking Congress for $50 million for this important work in the 2016 budget.

    JPL manages the NEOWISE mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    To view the NEOWISE data, visit:

    http://wise2.ipac.caltech.edu/docs/release/neowise/

    For more information about NEOWISE, visit:

    /neowise

    More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is at available online at:

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

    For more information about the Asteroid Redirect Mission, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/content/what-is-nasa-s-asteroid-redirect-mission/

    To view the NEOWISE data, visit:

    http://wise2.ipac.caltech.edu/docs/release/neowise/

    For more information about NEOWISE, visit:

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/programs/neowise.html

    More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is at available online at:

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

    For more information about the Asteroid Redirect Mission, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/initiative/#.VRfKpjhe89Y

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:27 pm on March 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , ,   

    From Keck: “Unusual Asteroid Suspected of Spinning to Explosion” 

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory

    March 19, 2015
    Steve Jefferson
    Communications Officer
    W. M. Keck Observatory
    808.881.3827
    sjefferson@keck.hawaii.edu

    1
    Credit: M. Drahus, W. Waniak (OAUJ) / W. M. Keck Observatory
    Active asteroid P/2012 F5 captured by Keck II/DEIMOS in mid-2014. Top panel shows a wide-angle view of the main nucleus and smaller fragments embedded in a long dust trail. Bottom panel shows a close-up view with the trail numerically removed to enhance the visibility of the fragments.

    A team led by astronomers from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, recently used the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii to observe and measure a rare class of “active asteroids” that spontaneously emit dust and have been confounding scientists for years. The team was able to measure the rotational speed of one of these objects, suggesting the asteroid spun so fast it burst, ejecting dust and newly discovered fragments in a trail behind it. The findings are being published in Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 20, 2015.

    2
    Credit: M. Drahus, W. Waniak (OAUJ) / W. M. Keck Observatory
    Brightness fluctuations of the nucleus of P/2012 F5 during two consecutive rotation cycles. Presented versus time (top panel) and versus the nucleus rotation phase (bottom panel).

    Unlike the hundreds of thousands of asteroids in the main belt of our solar system, which move cleanly along their orbits, active asteroids were discovered several years ago mimicking comets with their tails formed by calm, long lasting ice sublimation.

    Then in 2010 a new type of active asteroid was discovered, which ejected dust like a shot without an obvious reason. Scientists gravitated around two possible hypotheses. One states the explosion is a result of a hypervelocity collision with another minor object. The second popular explanation describes it as a consequence of “rotational disruption”, a process of launching dust and fragments by spinning so fast, the large centrifugal forces produced exceed the object’s own gravity, causing it to break apart. Rotational disruption is the expected final state of what is called the YORP effect – a slow evolution of the rotation rate due to asymmetric emission of heat.

    To date, astronomers have identified four objects suspected of either collision- or rotation-driven activity. These four freakish asteroids are all very small, at a kilometer or less, which makes them unimaginably faint when viewed from a typical distance of a couple hundred million miles. Despite prior attempts, the tiny size of the objects kept scientists from determining some of the key characteristics that could prove or disprove the theories.

    Until last August, when the team led by Michal Drahus of the Jagiellonian University was awarded time at Keck Observatory.

    “When we pointed Keck II at P/2012 F5 last August, we hoped to measure how fast it rotated and check whether it had sizable fragments. And the data showed us all that,” Drahus said.

    The team discovered at least four fragments of the object, previously established to have impulsively ejected dust in mid-2011. They also measured a very short rotation period of 3.24 hours – fast enough to cause the object impulsively explode.

    “This is really cool because fast rotation has been suspected of catapulting dust and triggering fragmentation of some active asteroids and comets. But up until now we couldn’t fully test this hypothesis as we didn’t know how fast fragmented objects rotate,” Drahus said.

    The astronomers calculated the object’s rotation period by measuring small periodic fluctuations in brightness. Such oscillations occur naturally as the irregular nucleus rotates about its spin axis and reflects different amounts of sunlight during a rotation cycle.

    “This is a well-established technique but its application on faint targets is challenging,” said Waclaw Waniak of the Jagiellonian University who processed the Keck Observatory data. “The main difficulty is the brightness must to be probed every few minutes so we don’t have time for long exposures. We needed the huge collecting area of Keck II, which captures a plentiful amount of photons in a very short time.”

    The photons were then concentrated in the telescope’s light path and sent to the DEIMOS instrument to produce the data that allowed the scientists to determine P/2012 F5’s nature. While monitoring brightness in the individual 3-minute exposures, scientists also compiled all the data to produce a single ultra-deep image, which revealed the fragments.

    The success wouldn’t be possible if the selected target, P/2012 F5, were not an ideal candidate for this study. Alex R. Gibbs discovered the object on March 22, 2012 with the Mount Lemmon 1.5 meter reflector. It was initially classified as a comet, based solely on its “dusty” look. But two independent teams quickly have shown all this dust was emitted in a single pulse about a year before the discovery – something that doesn’t happen to comets. When the dust settled in 2013, another team using the University of Hawaii’s 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea detected a star-like nucleus and suggested a maximum size of 2 kilometers.

    “We suspected that this upper limit was close to the actual size of the object. Consequently, we chose to observe P/2012 F5 because – despite its small size – it appeared to be the largest and easiest to observe active asteroid suspected of rotational disruption,” said Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research who chose P/2012 F5 as the subject.

    As a result of the study, P/2012 F5 is the first freshly fragmented object in the solar system with a well-determined spin rate, and this spin rate turns out to be the fastest among the active asteroids. A careful analysis made by the team shows that these two features of the object are consistent with the “rotational disruption” scenario. But alternative explanations, such as fragmentation due to an impact, cannot be completely ruled out.

    “There are many faster rotators among asteroids which don’t show signs of a recent mass loss. And there are many hypervelocity impactors straying out there and looking for targets to hit – be it a fast or slow rotator,” Drahus said.

    “We’re indebted to the Caltech Optical Observatories for generously awarding Keck Observatory time for this program,” said Drahus – formerly a NRAO Jansky Fellow at Caltech. “Without the huge collecting area of Keck II’s 10-meter mirror, we wouldn’t be able to achieve our goals so swiftly.”

    See the full article here.

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    Mission
    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.
    Keck UCal

    Keck NASA

    Keck Caltech

     
  • richardmitnick 8:43 am on January 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , ,   

    From Space.com- “Vesta: Facts About the Brightest Asteroid” 

    space-dot-com logo

    SPACE.com

    January 29, 2015
    Nola Redd

    1
    Vesta with comparative asteroids

    Vesta is the second most massive body in the asteroid belt, surpassed only by Ceres, which is classified as a dwarf planet. The brightest asteroid in the sky, Vesta is occasionally visible from Earth with the naked eye. It is the first asteroid to be visited by a spacecraft. The Dawn mission orbited Vesta in 2011, providing new insights into this rocky world.

    NASA Dawn Spacecraft
    NASA/Dawn

    Celestial Police

    In 1596, while determining the elliptical shape of planetary orbits, Johannes Kepler came to believe that a planet should exist in the gap between Mars and Jupiter. Mathematical calculations by Johann Daniel Titius and Johann Elert Bode in 1772 — later known as the Titus-Bode law — seemed to support this prediction. In August 1798, a group known as the Celestial Police formed to search for this missing planet. Among these was German astronomer Heinrich Olbers. Olbers discovered the second known asteroid, Pallas. In a letter to a fellow astronomer, he put forth the first theory of asteroid origin. He wrote, “Could it be that Ceres and Pallas are just a pair of fragments … of a once greater planet which at one time occupied its proper place between Mars and Jupiter?”

    Olbers reasoned that the fragments of such a planet would intersect at the point of the explosion, and again in the orbit directly opposite. He observed these two areas nightly, and on March 29, 1807, discovered Vesta, becoming the first person to discover two asteroids. After measuring several nights’ worth of observations, Olbers sent his calculations to mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, who remarkably computed the orbit of Pallas in only 10 hours. As such, he was given the honor of naming the new body. He chose the name Vesta, goddess of the hearth, and sister to Ceres.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 9:25 am on January 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , , Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR)   

    From NatGeo: “Watch Jumbo Asteroid Zip Past Earth” 

    National Geographic

    National Geographics

    January 23, 2015
    Andrew Fazekas

    1
    On January 26, the largest asteroid until 2027 will make a quick flyby of the Earth-moon system.

    A mountain-size space rock will sail past Earth on Monday, offering stargazers a close look at an interplanetary pinball. Luckily, NASA says there is no risk of collision, but it will be a rare astronomically close encounter that backyard telescope owners can watch.

    The large asteroid, called 2004 BL86, measures about a third of a mile (half a kilometer) across. It will make its closest approach to Earth on January 26, coming within only 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from our planet—about three times the distance separating the Earth and the moon.

    2
    Asteroid 2004 BL86 safely passes Earth on 26 January 2015. Illustration by NASA/JPL-Caltech

    While there have been many asteroids that have barnstormed Earth much closer, this will be the largest one to come that close until 2027, when a slightly smaller asteroid, 1999 AN10, may come closer to Earth than the moon. What makes Monday’s flyby most unusual is that it will be bright enough for small backyard telescopes to glimpse as it sweeps past our planet.

    Also making it of interest to astronomers is the fact that it belongs to a group of 551 known near-Earth asteroids that have the potential for impact sometime in the future. Luckily, 2004 BL86 doesn’t seem to have our number just yet.

    “Monday, January 26, will be the closest asteroid 2004 BL86 will get to Earth for at least the next 200 years,” said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement.

    “And while it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it’s a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more.”

    See for Yourself

    Asteroid 2004 BL86 was discovered on January 30, 2004, by a telescope of the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico. Now backyard sky-watchers can enjoy a chance to find it.

    Linear Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Telescope
    LINEAR

    LINEAR Site
    LINEAR Site
    The LINEAR (LIncoln labs Near Earth Asteroid Research) operates several meter-class telescopes near White Sands New Mexico. It is an Air Force / NASA /MIT project to find NEAs and, as shown in previous histogram, dominated the search from about 1998 to 2004.

    This will be a rare opportunity to see a bright flyby of a potentially hazardous asteroid from your backyard. For several hours on Monday, 2004 BL86 will reach a visual brightness of magnitude 9. That means small telescopes and possibly even large binoculars will reveal the asteroid—as long as you know where to look.

    The asteroid will travel through the constellations Hydra and Cancer in the south-southeastern evening sky and will glide just to the right of a bright celestial guidepost, the planet Jupiter. Between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. EST, it will be making a close pass of the famed Beehive star cluster.

    3
    This star map shows the position of asteroid 2004 BL86 in the southeast late evening sky on January 26, 2015. The space rock will be easier to find around 10 to 11 pm EST as it glides past Beehive star cluster.
    Skychart by A. Fazekas, SkySafari

    “I may grab my favorite binoculars and give it a shot myself,” added Yeomans.

    The timing and location of the closest approach means the best views will be from North America, South America, Europe, and Africa.

    You will have to act quickly, though, because 2004 BL86 will be moving at a fast clip on Monday, zipping through Earth’s skies at 2.7 degrees per hour, which is equal to almost five and half times the width of the disk of the full moon. Confirmation of its observation will come courtesy of it moving clearly across a background of fixed stars.

    If you do get clouded out or don’t have a scope handy, never fear: You can catch a live webcast of the cosmic encounter provided by the Virtual Telescope Project.

    Let us know if you manage to snag a view of this cosmic interloper in your skies.

    Happy hunting!

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:53 am on December 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Asteroids, ESA Space Situational Awareness,   

    From ESA: “Preparing For an Asteroid Strike” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    18 December 2014
    No Writer Credit

    ESA and national disaster response offices recently rehearsed how to react if a threatening space rock is ever discovered to be on a collision course with Earth.

    Last month, experts from ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme and Europe’s national disaster response organisations met for a two-day exercise on what to do if an asteroid is ever found to be heading our way.

    In ESA’s first-ever asteroid impact exercise, they went through a countdown to an impact, practising steps to be taken if near-Earth objects, or NEOs, of various sizes were detected.

    The exercise considered the threat from an imaginary, but plausible, asteroid, initially thought to range in size from 12 m to 38 m – spanning roughly the range between the 2013 Chelyabinsk airburst and the 1908 Tunguska event – and travelling at 12.5 km/s.

    t
    Chelyabinsk asteroid trail

    t
    1908 Tunguska event

    m
    ESA Space Situational Awareness: detecting space hazards
    Near-Earth objects

    Teams were challenged to decide what should happen at five critical points in time, focused on 30, 26, 5 and 3 days before and 1 hour after impact.

    “There are a large number of variables to consider in predicting the effects and damage from any asteroid impact, making simulations such as these very complex,” says Detlef Koschny, head of NEO activities in the SSA office.

    “These include the size, mass, speed, composition and impact angle. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t stop Europe from developing a comprehensive set of measures that could be taken by national civil authorities, which can be general enough to accommodate a range of possible effects.

    “The first step is to study NEOs and their impact effects and understand the basic science.”

    Participants came from various departments and agencies of the ESA member states Germany and Switzerland, including Germany’s Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assista

    t
    ESA’s Optical Ground Station (OGS) is 2400 m above sea level on the volcanic island of Tenerife.

    They studied questions such as: how should Europe react, who would need to know, which information would need to be distributed, and to whom?

    “For example, within about three days before a predicted impact, we’d likely have relatively good estimates of the mass, size, composition and impact location,” says Gerhard Drolshagen of ESA’s NEO team.

    “All of these directly affect the type of impact effects, amount of energy to be generated and hence potential reactions that civil authorities could take.”

    During the 2013 Chelyabinsk event, for instance, the asteroid, with a mass of about 12 000 tonnes and a size of 19 m, hit the upper atmosphere at a shallow angle and a speed of about 18.6 km/s, exploding with the energy of 480 kilotons of TNT at an altitude of 25–30 km.

    s
    SSA-NEO Coordination Centre ESRIN

    While potentially a real hazard, no injuries due to falling fragments were reported. Instead, more than 1500 people were injured and 7300 buildings damaged by the intense overpressure generated by the shockwave at Earth’s surface.

    Many people were injured by shards of flying glass as they peered out of windows to see what was happening.

    “In such a case, an appropriate warning by civil authorities would include simply telling people to stay away from windows, and remain within the strongest portions of a building, such as the cellar, similar to standard practice during tornados in the USA,” says Gerhard.

    In a real strike, ESA’s role would be crucial. It will have to warn both civil protection authorities and decision-makers about the impact location and time. It would also have to share reliable scientific data, including possible impact effects, and provide trustworthy and authoritative information.

    The exercise ended on 25 November, a significant step forward at highlighting the unique factors in emergency planning for asteroid strikes, and possible courses of action. It also clarified a number of open points, including requirements from civil protection agencies and the type and time sequence of information that can be provided by ESA’s SSA.

    It is another step in the continuing effort to set up an internationally coordinated procedure for information distribution and potential mitigation actions in case of an imminent threat.

    ESA’s NEO team is also working with international partners, agencies and organisations, including the UN, to help coordinate a global response to any future impact threat (see “Getting ready for asteroids”).

    With the aim of strengthening ESA’s and Europe’s response, similar exercises will be held in the future. The next, in 2015, will include representatives from additional countries.

    See the full article here.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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