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  • richardmitnick 7:55 am on June 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "ESA highlights protection for our planet ahead of Asteroid Day", Asteroids, , , , ,   

    From European Space Agency – United Space in Europe: “ESA highlights protection for our planet ahead of Asteroid Day” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United Space in Europe

    ESA / Safety & Security

    The United Nations’ International Asteroid Day on 30 June highlights ESA’s expanding efforts to secure our future by understanding and addressing risks posed by near-Earth objects that could impact our planet.

    “The work of ESA and the international planetary defence community is a great example of how to address this important hazard,” says ESA Director General Jan Wörner. “An asteroid impact is the only natural disaster we might avoid, if we see one coming soon enough.”

    1
    Hera at Didymos. ESA’s Hera asteroid mission approaching the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids to map the impact crater left by NASA’s DART spacecraft.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft depiction

    NASA DART Double Impact Redirection Test vehicle depiction schematic

    “Even when the threat is low, governments and international organisations such as the UN working together show that it is possible to get ready in advance and mitigate damage from a global threat that can affect anyone, anywhere.”

    Current ESA activities include:

    -Detailed design work is proceeding on ESA’s first planetary defence validation mission: the Hera spacecraft will fly to the Didymos asteroid pair in 2024, following on from NASA’s DART mission due to be launched next year, which will deflect the smaller asteroid.

    -ESA’s long-running asteroid observations have resumed, following a brief pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Near-Earth asteroids are identified and tracked from various telescopes across Europe and the world.

    -ESA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) Coordination Centre in Italy continues to coordinate asteroid observations and assess risks from newly discovered objects, despite the serious Covid-19 effects in that country.

    -The first of ESA’s new multi-optic ‘Flyeye’ telescopes is under construction near Milan, and will facilitate the automated detection of asteroids once in operation.

    ESA Flyeye telescope

    -ESA’s deep-space ground stations have contributed communication coverage for Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission, which is now headed Earthward after collecting samples from an asteroid.

    JAXA Hayabusa2

    -ESA is sponsoring a Grand Challenge on In-Situ Resource Utilisation for the Moon and asteroids, allowing future explorers to make use of materials found in space. Temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this €500 000 competition is set to resume soon.

    -The Agency’s suitcase-sized ‘Miniature Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer’ (M-Argo) spacecraft is about to undergo its Preliminary Requirements Review, where experts will declare this audacious mission feasible.ESA’s Comet Interceptor mission, planned to launch near the end of this decade, will wait in space for a suitable body — potentially even an interstellar comet — to investigate.

    3
    ESA M-Argo spacecraft depiction

    ESA and Space Safety

    Under the Agency’s Space Safety Programme, which received an important boost in funding at the Space19+ Ministerial Council in November 2019, ESA is taking action as part of an international effort to mitigate asteroid risks.

    ESA’s goal is to coordinate Europe’s part of a global planetary defence effort, aimed at detecting, studying and following asteroids, predicting if and when they might hit and taking mitigation action if needed.

    UN Asteroid Day

    On 30 June 1908, the Tunguska impact felled many millions of trees across 2200 sq km of Siberian territory, only a few hours of Earth rotation away from Europe – the results would have been disastrous over a populated area.

    Asteroid Day, a UN-endorsed awareness campaign day to mark this historic date, was co-founded by astrophysicist and famed musician Dr Brian May of the rock group Queen, Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart, filmmaker Grig Richters, and B612 President Danica Remy.

    Asteroid Day TV supported by ESA

    This year, activities to mark Asteroid Day are moving entirely online, and include a month of Asteroid Day TV distributed by the Luxembourg-based Asteroid Foundation and including programming by ESA as well as top content makers including Discovery Science, TED, IMAX, BBC, CNN, ESO and other educational producers.

    Asteroid Day TV will distribute Asteroid Day LIVE from Luxembourg starting 30 June at 12:00 CEST including five hours of ESA and Asteroid Day programme segments newly produced for 2020 in English.

    ESA is also planning new programme segments in Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. These will premiere in advance of 30 June.

    All segments will be broad- and webcast to the public via AsteroidDay.org, via SES Satellite and to other broadcasters via satellite and digital CDN via RTL’s Broadcasting Center Europe (BCE).

    Segments will also be available via ESA Web TV and ESA’s YouTube channel.

    3
    ESA Space Safety & Security. As we discover more about the brilliant scale and nature of the Universe, planet Earth’s blue oceans, green forests and glistening city lights appear even more unique, and even more fragile. Many hazards have been identified originating in space, which although unlikely, continue to pose real dangers to our way of life, and in the worst cases to human health and safety. Only in the past decades have we had the opportunity to understand the potential perils of our position in our Solar System, and as technologies continue to advance we are entering a period in which we can actually act. However, as technologies advance, so too does our dependence on them, making us more vulnerable to both human-made and natural threats in space. ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme was launched in 2009, with the aim of ensuring that Europe can independently detect, predict and assess threats from space and their potential risk to life, property and infrastructure.

    ESA programming schedule

    ESA’s Asteroid Day 2020 dedicated-language segments will premiere in Asteroid Day TV (followed by frequent replay until 4 July) as follows:

    Italian 24 June 17:00-18:00 CEST

    German 25 June 17:00-18:00 CEST

    French 25 June 18:30-19:30 CEST

    Dutch 26 June 11:00-12:00 CEST

    Spanish 26 June 17:00-18:00 CEST

    English 30 June 12:00-13:00 CEST and 18:00-19:00 CEST

    More information and full broadcast schedule via https://asteroidday.org/broadcast-schedule/

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
  • richardmitnick 12:29 pm on June 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Exploring Links Between Nearby Asteroids", 3200 Phaethon and (155140) 2005 UD- are they linked?, , Asteroids, , , ,   

    From AAS NOVA: “Exploring Links Between Nearby Asteroids” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    19 June 2020
    Susanna Kohler

    1
    Artist’s illustration of the near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon, one target of an upcoming fly-by mission. [Heather Roper/University of Arizona]

    It’s not easy being a speeding rock in our solar system.

    2
    Illustration of an asteroid breaking apart into smaller fragments. [NASA/JPL]

    Over their lifetimes, the millions of minor rocky bodies of our solar system — asteroids — are subject to extreme conditions. Some experience dramatic collisions, some are spun up to such high rotation speeds that they fly apart, and some venture so close to the Sun that our star’s heat cracks them into pieces.

    Over time, these violent processes create families of asteroids that dance around our solar system on similar paths. Where one rock once orbited, there might now be a group of genetically linked asteroids that follow similar trajectories — all produced by the splitting of one parent rock.

    In a new study, scientists have explored two especially nearby asteroids to determine whether they might be linked.

    A Visit to a “Potentially Hazardous” Neighbor

    3
    The orbital path of the near-Earth asteroid Phaethon. [Sky&Tel]

    Asteroids whose orbits bring them close to the Earth are of particular interest to us: we like to keep an eye on those bodies that might threaten our planet.

    Perhaps 22,000 near-Earth asteroids are currently known, with just over 2,000 that are large enough and swing close enough to Earth’s orbit to be considered “potentially hazardous” — though it should be noted that the vast majority of these have been ruled out as being an impact threat in at least the next 100 years.

    4
    Artist’s illustration of the DESTINY+ spacecraft. [JAXA]

    To learn more about these nearby bodies, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency is sending a spacecraft, DESTINY+, to fly by a large (~5-km) near-Earth asteroid. The target is 3200 Phaethon — an unusual blue-toned, dust-producing asteroid thought to be the source of the Geminid meteor stream — and other minor bodies that might be associated with it.

    As DESTINY+ is currently scheduled to launch in 2022, scientists are currently preparing by learning all they can about the possible mission targets using ground- and space-based observatories. In a new study led by Maxime Devogèle (Lowell Observatory), a team of scientists presents detailed observations of (155140) 2005 UD, another near-Earth object and potential DESTINY+ target that might be related to Phaethon.

    Signs Point to a Linked Pair

    Devogèle and collaborators gathered an impressive array of observations of 2005 UD, using dozens of telescopes to obtain photometry, polarimetry, and spectroscopy, and also reanalyzing thermal imaging.

    5
    2005 UD and Phaethon exhibit very similar spectra, including rare spectroscopic (B-type) signatures. [Devogèle et al. 2020]

    By combining new observations with archival data and detailed modeling, the team constrained 2005 UD’s size (just over 1 km across) and rotation rate (it spins roughly once every 5.2 hours), as well as many other properties like its albedo, spectroscopic class, and even the size of the grains on its surface — knowledge that will all help with mission planning for DESTINY+.

    But what about 2005 UD’s potential link to Phaethon? Based on Devogèle and collaborators’ observations, 2005 UD and Phaethon appear to share more than just orbital characteristics. They also have very similar — and rare, among asteroids — physical properties as shown by their spectroscopy and polarimetry.

    More study is needed, but the data suggest that the two are, indeed, genetically linked — perhaps 2005 UD and Phaethon both split from the same parent thousands of years ago. With any luck, DESTINY+ will soon reveal more about these close-swinging rocky bodies!

    Citation

    “New Evidence for a Physical Link between Asteroids (155140) 2005 UD and (3200) Phaethon,” Maxime Devogèle et al 2020 Planet. Sci. J. 1 15.
    https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/PSJ/ab8e45

    See the full article here .


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    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 10:05 am on March 30, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , NASA's DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission, NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C), NEXT-C is a powerful engine. It's nothing like a rocket which requires a massive amount of thrust to lift something away from Earth's gravity., , The Italian Space Agency is providing LICIA (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids) for the mission., This Epic Ion Engine Will Power NASA's Test Mission to Redirect an Asteroid, Tiny binary asteroid system called Didymos   

    From Science Alert: “This Epic Ion Engine Will Power NASA’s Test Mission to Redirect an Asteroid” 

    ScienceAlert

    From Science Alert

    29 MARCH 2020
    EVAN GOUGH

    1
    (NASA/Bridget Caswell)

    Despite humanity’s current struggle against the novel coronavirus, and despite it taking up most of our attention, other threats still exist. The very real threat of a possible asteroid strike on Earth in the future is taking a backseat for now, but it’s still there.

    Though an asteroid strike seems kind of ephemeral right now, it’s a real threat, and one that has the potential to end humanity. Agencies like NASA and the ESA are still working on their plans to protect us from that threat.

    NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission is scheduled to launch on 22 July 2021.

    NASA DART Double Impact Redirection Test vehicle depiction schematic

    It’s a demonstration mission to study the use of kinetic impact to deflect an asteroid. It’ll head for the tiny binary asteroid system called Didymos, (or 65803 Didymos.) This double asteroid system poses no threat to Earth.

    The larger of the pair, named Didymos A, is about 780 meters (2560 ft.) in diameter, while the smaller one, Didymos B, is only about 160 meters (535 feet) DART will crash itself into the Didymos B. It’s close to the typical size of an asteroid that threatens Earth.

    2
    A simulated image of the Didymos binary asteroid. (Naidu et al., AIDA Workshop, 2016)

    DART has a lot of space to cover to reach Didymos. After launching in July 2021, it will reach its target in September 22, when the binary asteroid is within 11 million km (6.8 million miles) of Earth. And to get there, it’ll rely on a powerful ion engine called NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C).

    The engine comes in two primary components: the thruster and the power processing unit (PPU.) NEXT-C is getting ready for the mission with a series of tests, both performance and environmental.

    The thruster was put through vibration, thermal vacuum and performance tests before being integrated with its PPU. It was also subjected to simulated spaceflight conditions: the extreme vibration during launch, and the extreme cold of space.

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    The power processing unit of the thruster is removed from another vacuum chamber after successful testing. (NASA/Bridget Caswell)

    NEXT-C is a powerful engine. It’s nothing like a rocket, which requires a massive amount of thrust to lift something away from Earth’s gravity. But in terms of ion drives, it’s a very powerful unit. It’s about three times more powerful than the NSTAR ion drives on NASA’s DAWN and Deep Space One spacecraft.

    NASA/DLR Dawn Spacecraft (2007-2018)

    3
    Deep Space One spacecraft. Wikipedia

    NEXT can produce 6.9 kW thrust power and 236 mN thrust. The engine has produced the highest total impulse of any ion engine: 17 MN·s. It also has a specific impulse, which is a measure of how efficiently it uses propellant, of 4,190 seconds, compared to NSTAR’s 3,120.

    Ion drives don’t burn fuel like a rocket, though they do use a propellant. Typically the propellant is xenon, like in NEXT-C. The NEXT-C ion engine is a double-grid system.

    The xenon is fed into a chamber, where it encounters the first, or upstream, grid. Solar arrays provide the electricity, and the first grid is charged positive. As the xenon ions pass through the upstream grid, they are charged positively.

    This draws them toward the second or accelerator grid, which is charged negatively. This propels them out of the engine, providing thrust. The thrust is equal to the force between the upstream ions and the accelerator grid.

    4
    NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster being tested in a vacuum chamber. (NASA)

    When DART reaches the Didymos binary asteroid, it will have some company. The Italian Space Agency is providing LICIA (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids) for the mission.

    6
    https://www.nanosats.eu/sat/liciacube

    LICIA is 6 cubesats that will separate from DART prior to impact with Didymos B. It’ll capture images of the impact and the debris ejected from the collision and transmit it back to Earth.

    The impact is expected to change Didymos B’s orbital velocity by about a half millimeter per second. That will change its rotation period by a large enough amount that Earth-based telescopes will detect it. It will also leave a crater in the surface, about 20 m (66 ft) wide.

    Though DART will be destroyed when it impacts, the ESA is planning a follow-up mission. It’s called Hera, and it’s scheduled to launch in 2024, and to arrive in 2027.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft depiction

    Hera will investigate not only the effect of DART’s impact, but will carry a suite of instruments to learn more about binary asteroids, and the interior of the asteroid.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 1:41 pm on February 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Asteroid 2020 BX12, Asteroids, , , , , , The asteroid has its very own moon - a tiny little thing just 70 metres (230 feet) across.   

    From Arecibo Observatory via Science Alert: “An Asteroid Totally Just Mooned Earth” 

    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft).

    From Arecibo Observatory

    via

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    11 FEB 2020
    MICHELLE STARR

    1
    (Arecibo Observatory/Planetary Radar Science Group)

    A large asteroid whooshed past Earth last week, and mooned all of humanity in the process.

    As it approached Earth space, asteroid 2020 BX12 was under close observation. Clocking in at 200 to 450 metres across (656 to 1,476 feet), and moving at around 90,000 kilometres per hour (56,000 miles per hour), the space rock was one of the larger ones to enter our vicinity in recent weeks.

    It passed safely by at a distance of over 4.3 million kilometres (2.7 million miles) on February 3, placing it at over 11 times the distance of the Moon, so you can chill about the prospect of total devastation.

    As it passed, and continued to move away, astronomers at Arecibo Observatory’s Planetary Radar Science Group in Puerto Rico took 2020 BX12’s photo. And they noticed it wasn’t alone.

    The asteroid has its very own moon – a tiny little thing just 70 metres (230 feet) across.

    “Preliminary analysis suggests that the primary asteroid is a round object at least 165 metres in diameter rotating approximately once every 2.8 hours or less,” they wrote in an announcement.

    “The satellite has a diameter of approximately 70 metres and rotates once every 49 hours or less. The distance between the two bodies is at least 360 metres, as observed on February 5.

    The movement of the satellite between the two observations, which were made ~23 hours apart, suggests a mutual orbital period of 45-50 hours and would be consistent with a tidally locked satellite.”

    It’s actually not that strange for asteroids to have moons of their own. There’s a bunch of asteroids in the main asteroid belt that are known to have their own moons, and around 60 near-Earth asteroids of the roughly 16,400 known have at least one moon.

    But because asteroids are so hard to spot, data on how many of them have moons is incomplete. Some asteroids even have two moons, and very rarely you get a binary asteroid where both are around the same size.

    We don’t know how asteroids get moons, either. They could form together, like binary stars; they could be chunks that are from the same collision; or they could snare each other as they pass by.

    The more moony asteroids we find, the better we can try to understand them.

    2020 BX12 is a member of the Apollo group of near-Earth asteroids that swing between inside Earth’s orbit, and out past Mars. It’s due to pass Mars in June of this year, and while it will swoop past Earth in 2022 and 2024, it will be at a much greater distance than this year’s flyby.

    In fact, 2020 BX12 won’t come as close to Earth at least within the next 90 years.

    Bye, asteroid buddy! Thanks for showing us your moon!

    See the full article here .

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    The Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope in the municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. This observatory is operated by SRI International, USRA and UMET, under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF). The observatory is the sole facility of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), which refers to the observatory, and the staff that operates it. From its construction in the 1960s until 2011, the observatory was managed by Cornell University.

    The observatory’s 1,000-foot (305-meter) radio telescope was the largest single-aperture telescope from its completion in 1963 until July 2016 when the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China was completed. It is used in three major areas of research: radio astronomy, atmospheric science, and radar astronomy. Scientists who want to use the observatory submit proposals that are evaluated by an independent scientific board.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:10 pm on January 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Asteroids, , , , Impact craters,   

    From The New York Times: “Earth’s Oldest Asteroid Impact Found in Australia” 

    From The New York Times

    Jan. 21, 2020
    Katherine Kornei

    The cataclysm, which occurred roughly 2.2 billion years ago, might have catapulted the planet out of an ice age.

    1
    An outcrop of impact melt rock on Barlangi Hill in the Yarrabubba crater in Western Australia, the site of an asteroid collision more than 2 billion years old.Credit.Timmons Erickson

    Earth is constantly being pummeled by space rocks. Several tons rain down on the planet each day in the form of dust. And larger strikes have created more visible features, including giant craters.

    2
    Artist’s reconstruction of Chicxulub crater soon after impact, 66 million years ago.
    DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY/SCIENCE SOURCE
    This strike was the one responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.

    But which of our planet’s extraterrestrial scars is the oldest?

    Researchers reported on Tuesday in Nature Communications that they have pinpointed it, in Western Australia. It was caused by an impact more than 2.2 billion years ago.

    Intriguingly, that timing roughly coincides with the end of one of our planet’s ice ages. An impact in the ice would have liberated an enormous amount of water vapor, the researchers suggest, perhaps enough to alter Earth’s climate and catapult the planet out of widespread glaciation.

    The Yarrabubba impact structure, about a day’s drive northeast of Perth, isn’t much to look at today. The original crater, believed to have been roughly 40 miles in diameter, is long gone.

    “There’s no topography that rises up,” said Aaron Cavosie, a planetary scientist at Curtin University in Perth and a member of the research team.

    That’s because the combined effects of wind, rain, glaciation and plate tectonics have scoured several miles off the surface of the planet, effectively erasing the crater. The extent of erosion suggests that the impact structure is very, very old.

    Existing clues yield “a pretty giant” age range of about a billion and a half years, said Timmons Erickson, a geochronologist at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston and the study’s lead author. But Dr. Erickson knew that it was possible to do far better, by reading the tiny geological clocks that hide within rocks.

    In 2014, Dr. Erickson collected roughly 200 pounds of granitic rocks from Yarrabubba. Back in the laboratory, he and his colleagues placed the rocks in water and added 120,000 volts of electricity. That jolt broke the rocks into sand-size grains. The scientists were looking for grains of zircon and monazite, tough minerals that survive for billions of years and, crucially, incorporate uranium and thorium atoms into their crystalline structure.

    Uranium and thorium decay, in a steady dribble over billions of years, into lead. But the searing temperatures of an impact — thousands of degrees Fahrenheit — cause zircon and monazite to recrystallize, a process that drives out lead.

    “It’s kind of like cleaning house,” Dr. Cavosie said. “Recrystallization is a bond-breaking process that kicks out the pre-existing lead and thus resets the clock.”

    As a result, the relative amounts of uranium, thorium and lead in recrystallized zircon or monazite can be used to calculate how long ago an impact occurred.

    Based on measurements of 39 zircon and monazite crystals, Dr. Erickson and his team calculated that the Yarrabubba impact occurred 2.229 billion years ago, with an uncertainty of 5 million years. The next-oldest impact structure, Vredefort Dome in South Africa, is over 200 million years younger.

    3
    A grain of zircon analyzed by Dr. Erickson and his colleagues, showing recrystallization textures from the impact.Credit…Erickson et al., Nature Communications 2020

    The age of the Yarrabubba impact structure happens to line up with the end of an ice age, which makes for a compelling coincidence, Dr. Erickson said: “Would an impact event like Yarrabubba be enough to terminate a glacial time in Earth’s history?”

    To help answer that question, the scientists modeled the effects of a roughly four-mile-wide impact object striking ice sheets of different thicknesses. They found that more than 100 billion tons of water vapor would have been jetted into the upper atmosphere.

    Water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas; suddenly having much more of it aloft could have triggered a warming that ended an ice age, the team suggested. That idea still needs to be tested with climate models, the researchers noted.

    Christian Koeberl, a geochemist at the University of Vienna and not involved in the research, agreed. Inferring what might have happened to Earth’s ancient climate is “where things get a lot more speculative,” he said. “We just don’t know the answer to that yet.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:07 am on December 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA's OSIRIS-REx Explains Bennu Mystery Particles", Asteroids, , , , , ,   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech: “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Explains Bennu Mystery Particles” 

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    December 5, 2019

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

    Alana Johnson
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-672-4780
    alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

    Nancy Neal-Jones
    Greenbelt, Md.
    301-286-0039
    nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov

    1
    This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on Jan. 6, 2019, was created by combining two images taken by the NavCam 1 imager aboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft: a short exposure image, which shows the asteroid clearly, and a long-exposure image (five seconds), which shows the particles clearly. Other image-processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each layer.Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    Shortly after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, an unexpected discovery by the mission’s science team revealed that the asteroid could be active, or consistently discharging particles into space. The ongoing examination of Bennu – and its sample that will eventually be returned to Earth – could potentially shed light on why this intriguing phenomenon is occurring.

    The OSIRIS-REx team first observed a particle-ejection event in images captured by the spacecraft’s navigation cameras taken on Jan. 6, just a week after the spacecraft entered its first orbit around Bennu. At first glance, the particles appeared to be stars behind the asteroid, but on closer examination, the team realized that the asteroid was ejecting material from its surface. After concluding that these particles did not compromise the spacecraft’s safety, the mission began dedicated observations in order to fully document the activity.


    This animation illustrates the modeled trajectories of particles that were ejected from Bennu’s surface on January 19. After ejecting from the asteroid’s surface, the particles either briefly orbited Bennu and fell back to its surface or escaped away from Bennu and into space.

    “Among Bennu’s many surprises, the particle ejections sparked our curiosity, and we’ve spent the last several months investigating this mystery,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “This is a great opportunity to expand our knowledge of how asteroids behave.”

    After studying the results of the observations, the mission team released their findings in a Science paper published Dec. 6. The team observed the three largest particle-ejection events on Jan. 6 and 19, and Feb. 11, and concluded that the events originated from different locations on Bennu’s surface. The first event originated in the southern hemisphere, and the second and third events occurred near the equator. All three events took place in the late afternoon on Bennu.

    The team found that, after ejection from the asteroid’s surface, the particles either briefly orbited Bennu and fell back to its surface or escaped from Bennu into space. The observed particles traveled up to 10 feet (3 meters) per second, and measured from smaller than an inch up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) in size. Approximately 200 particles were observed during the largest event, which took place on Jan. 6.

    The team investigated a wide variety of possible mechanisms that may have caused the ejection events and narrowed the list to three candidates: meteoroid impacts, thermal stress fracturing and released water vapor.

    Meteoroid impacts are common in the deep space neighborhood of Bennu, and it is possible that these small fragments of space rock could be hitting Bennu where OSIRIS-REx is not observing it, shaking loose particles with the momentum of their impact.

    The team also determined that thermal fracturing is another reasonable explanation. Bennu’s surface temperatures vary drastically over its 4.3-hour rotation period. Although it is extremely cold during the night hours, the asteroid’s surface warms significantly in the mid-afternoon, which is when the three major events occurred. As a result of this temperature change, rocks may begin to crack and break down, and eventually particles could be ejected from the surface. This cycle is known as thermal stress fracturing.

    Water release may also explain the asteroid’s activity. When Bennu’s water-locked clays are heated, the water could begin to release and create pressure. It is possible that as pressure builds in cracks and pores in boulders where absorbed water is released, the surface could become agitated, causing particles to erupt.

    But nature does not always allow for simple explanations. “It could be that more than one of these possible mechanisms are at play,” said Steve Chesley, an author on the paper and Senior Research Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “For example, thermal fracturing could be chopping the surface material into small pieces, making it far easier for meteoroid impacts to launch pebbles into space.”

    If thermal fracturing, meteoroid impacts or both are in fact the causes of these ejection events, then this phenomenon is likely happening on all small asteroids, as they all experience these mechanisms. However, if water release is the cause of these ejection events, then this phenomenon would be specific to asteroids that contain water-bearing minerals, like Bennu.

    Bennu’s activity presents larger opportunities once a sample is collected and returned to Earth for study. Many of the ejected particles are small enough to be collected by the spacecraft’s sampling mechanism, meaning that the returned sample may possibly contain some material that was ejected and returned to Bennu’s surface. Determining that a particular particle had been ejected and returned to Bennu might be a scientific feat similar to finding a needle in a haystack. The material returned to Earth from Bennu, however, will almost certainly increase our understanding of asteroids and the ways they are both different and similar, even as the particle-ejection phenomenon continues to be a mystery whose clues we’ll also return home with in the form of data and further material for study.

    Sample collection is scheduled for summer 2020, and the sample will be delivered to Earth in September 2023.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona in Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:52 am on September 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , , ESA/NASA “AIDA” collaboration (for Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment),   

    From European Space Agency: “A burst of asteroid activity in Europe” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    10 September 2019

    The next few days will see a rare convergence of asteroid-related activity in Europe, as planetary defence and other experts meet in three locations to coordinate humanity’s efforts to defend ourselves from hazardous space rocks.

    Such intense levels of international scientific collaboration are driven in part by the fact that an asteroid impact could cause devastating effects on Earth. But this is also a testament to the fact that we are at a point in human history where we can do something about risky asteroids.

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    Infographic: asteroid danger explained

    According to recent ESA estimates, there are 878 asteroids in the ‘risk list’. This ESA catalogue brings together all asteroids we know of that have a ‘non-zero’ chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years – meaning that an impact, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out.

    An impact by even a small asteroid could cause serious destruction to inhabited areas. This is why ESA, together with international partners, is taking action to search for asteroids, develop technology that could deflect them in future and collaborate at the international level to support mitigation measures.

    The flurry of upcoming meetings will cover vital topics in planetary defence, including the planned, first-ever test of asteroid deflection, coordination and communication of asteroid warnings and how to ensure the most effective emergency response on the ground. With all the work being done, the planet has never been so prepared for the unlikely but very real threat of an asteroid impact.

    The ESA/NASA “AIDA” collaboration (for Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment) will see NASA’s DART spacecraft crash into and deflect the 160-m asteroid Didymos-B (also known as Didymoon, the smaller of the Didymos dual asteroid system).

    NASA DART Double Impact Redirection Test vehicle depiction schematic

    Later, ESA’s Hera mission will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effects of this collision.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft

    The AIDA workshop brings together asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from the US, Europe and around the world to discuss the latest in this first-ever test of asteroid deflection, planned for 2022.

    Astronomers from both sides of the Atlantic will also be reporting on the latest observation campaigns to gather additional data on the Didymos asteroid system, helping with the planning of both missions.

    The International Asteroid Warning Network, currently led by NASA, and the ESA-chaired Space Mission Planning Advisory Group regularly meet to discuss all things asteroid.

    Both groups have mandates from the UN to coordinate, at the international level, different aspects of any future responses to any asteroid risks.

    The latest meetings will be hosted by the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Munich.

    The organisations will discuss the recent ‘non-detection’ of asteroid 2006 QV89, the latest news from the Minor Planet Center and how asteroid warnings are communicated to the public and media.

    Representatives of civil protection agencies from six countries including Germany, Switzerland and the US, as well as from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, will join ESA’s Planetary Defence Office at the Agency’s operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

    This will be the third in a series of emergency response workshops with the purpose of establishing a link between ESA and national civil protection authorities, ensuring national agencies understand the asteroid threat and how ESA can support them in their work to protect life and infrastructure on the ground.

    These three meetings illustrate the breadth of activity currently taking place across the globe to mitigate the risk of an asteroid impact, to ensure early warnings of such a threat, and to prepare on Earth in the unlikely event of a strike – planetary defence is heating up!

    Find out more about ESA’s Planetary Defence activities, here.

    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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  • richardmitnick 12:37 pm on June 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Asteroids, , , , , , , ,   

    From European Space Agency: “When CubeSats meet asteroid” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    28 June 2019

    ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence, being designed to survey the smallest asteroid ever explored, is really three spacecraft in one. The main mothership will carry two briefcase-sized CubeSats, which will touch down on the target body. A French team has been investigating what might happen at that initial instant of alien contact.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft

    “We’ve customised an existing drop tower and rigged it up with a system of pulleys and counterweights in order to simulate a low gravity environment,” explains researcher Naomi Murdoch of the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-Supaero), part of the University of Toulouse.

    “We can go down to a few percent of Earth’s gravity within the test box that we place within the drop tower, containing a model lander and simulated asteroid terrain.

    2
    APEX and Juventas CubeSats

    “Our team started out with a spherical lander touching down on a sandy surface, but we’ve progressed to cubic shapes more representative of the actual CubeSats. We’ve also been studying the influence of different surface materials, and sought to understand how the landing process varies with different material properties, gravity levels and velocities.

    “This is necessary because each time we go to a different asteroid we end up surprised by what we find. For instance, Japan’s Hayabusa2, currently exploring the Ryugu asteroid, has found much scarcer ‘regolith’ dust and more boulders than researchers had expected.”

    JAXA/Hayabusa 2 Credit: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

    4
    Lander models inside drop box

    Hera’s Juventas CubeSat will perform the first radar probe of an asteroid, while the APEX CubeSat will perform a multispectral mineral survey of its makeup.

    These two nanosatellites will fly closer to their target asteroid and take more risks than the main Hera spacecraft, and will both end up landing on the surface once their main mission goals are achieved.

    The pull of gravity involved is less than one hundred thousandth of Earth’s, far lower than can be reproduced by the ISAE-Supaero team. This means the touchdown itself will be more like a spacecraft docking than a traditional planetary landing.

    “Imagine, for instance, if the CubeSats are released 200 m from the asteroid surface, then they will take over an hour to cover that brief distance to the surface,” adds Naomi. “Everything moves in a kind of slow motion. Then there is also the possibility of bouncing off again.

    4
    APEX CubeSat above Didymoon

    “The Rosetta comet-chaser’s Philae lander bounced off the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko repeatedly before finally coming to rest. Certainly if you were an astronaut on the surface you would have to walk with incredibly gentle steps to avoid leaving the surface and never coming back.”

    The hope is that both CubeSats survive their descent to return some observations, including close-up views of the surface material. But the main purpose of the ISAE-Supaero testing is to squeeze as much valuable data out of that initial moment of contact.

    5
    Juventas CubeSat coming in for asteroid landing

    “We’ve fitted our test lander with accelerometers similar to those that one of the Hera CubeSats will be carrying,” says Naomi. “We can see for example how the impact dynamics vary based on the material properties, from sand to large gravel, influencing how much we penetrate into the surface and how long the collision lasts.

    “And we are learning how results differ based on how the CubeSats land, whether they come down corner or face first – a face-down landing would give a higher peak acceleration. At the end of our testing we hope to have a set of data to better interpret the actual landings – and prove useful for understanding other missions’ interactions with asteroids as well.”

    Back in 2005 researchers were similarly able to acquire precious knowledge of the frozen methane crust of Saturn’s Moon Titan by the way ESA’s Huygens lander wobbled as it came to rest. The lander’s motion suggests a surface consistency of damp sand, covered with a fluffy dust layer, with dampness just below the surface – and the presence of at least one 1-2 cm sized pebble.

    ISAE-Supaero’s tests so far underline how Hera’s target 160-m diameter, extremely low gravity target asteroid is shaping up to be a truly alien environment. “The surface material is bound to behave differently, because reducing gravity reduces the normal force between particles and therefore also the friction – so it should take less force to penetrate the same sandy material.

    3
    Hera deploying CubeSats

    “The low gravity also means other phenomenon such as van der Waals force, which causes things like flour to stick together, will play a much larger role. The asteroid surface might have a collection of large rocks which end up behaving more like particles of flour. Or electrostatic charging could encourage dust to be levitated and transported across the surface.”

    These landing data should also help reveal scaling laws inherent to collision dynamics, extending all the way up the scale to the impact of NASA’s DART spacecraft with the same asteroid, to test planetary defence techniques.

    The Hera mission will be presented to ESA’s Space19+ meeting this November, where Europe’s space ministers will take a final decision on flying the mission.

    See the full article here .


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    Stem Education Coalition

    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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  • richardmitnick 8:58 am on June 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , , , , , , , Planetary defence   

    From European Space Agency: “Video: ESA defending Earth” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    25/06/2019
    ESA’s planetary defence mission

    Hera will show us things we’ve never seen before.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft

    Astrophysicist and and Queen guitarist Brian May tells the story of the ESA mission that would be humanity’s first-ever spacecraft to visit a double asteroid.

    The asteroid system – named Didymos – is typical of the thousands that pose an impact risk to our planet, and even the smaller of the two would be big enough to destroy an entire city if it were to collide with Earth.

    Hera will help ESA to find out if it would be possible to deflect such an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. The mission will revolutionise our understanding of asteroids and how to protect ourselves from them, and therefore could be crucial for saving our planet.

    First, NASA will crash its DART spacecraft into the smaller asteroid – known as Didymoon – before ESA’s Hera comes in to map the resulting impact crater and measure the asteroid’s mass.

    NASA DART Double Impact Redirection Test vehicle depiction schematic

    Hera will carry two CubeSats on board, which will be able to fly much closer to the asteroid’s surface, carrying out crucial scientific studies, before touching down.

    2
    ESA APEX CubeSat

    3
    Juventas CubeSat

    Hera’s up-close observations will turn asteroid deflection into a well-understood planetary defence technique.

    The Hera mission will be presented to ESA’s Space19+ meeting this November, where Europe’s space ministers will take a final decision on flying the mission, as part of the Agency’s broader planetary defence initiatives that aim to protect European and world citizens.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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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  • richardmitnick 9:14 am on June 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroids, , , , ,   

    From European Southern Observatory: “ESO contributes to protecting Earth from dangerous asteroids” 

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    From European Southern Observatory

    3 June 2019
    Calum Turner
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6670
    Email: pio@eso.org

    VLT observes a passing double asteroid hurtling by Earth at 70 000 km/h.

    1
    The unique capabilities of the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope have enabled it to obtain the sharpest images of a double asteroid as it flew by Earth on 25 May. While this double asteroid was not itself a threatening object, scientists used the opportunity to rehearse the response to a hazardous Near-Earth Object (NEO), proving that ESO’s front-line technology could be critical in planetary defence.

    ESO SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT MELIPAL UT3, Cerro Paranal, Chile, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    The International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) coordinated a cross-organisational observing campaign of the asteroid 1999 KW4 as it flew by Earth, reaching a minimum distance of 5.2 million km [1] on 25 May 2019. 1999 KW4 is about 1.3 km wide, and does not pose any risk to Earth. Since its orbit is well known, scientists were able to predict this fly-by and prepare the observing campaign.

    ESO joined the campaign with its flagship facility, the Very Large Telescope (VLT). The VLT is equipped with SPHERE [above] — one of the very few instruments in the world capable of obtaining images sharp enough to distinguish the two components of the asteroid, which are separated by around 2.6 km.

    SPHERE was designed to observe exoplanets; its state-of-the-art adaptive optics (AO) system corrects for the turbulence of the atmosphere, delivering images as sharp as if the telescope were in space. It is also equipped with coronagraphs to dim the glare of bright stars, exposing faint orbiting exoplanets.

    Taking a break from its usual night job hunting exoplanets, SPHERE data helped astronomers characterise the double asteroid. In particular, it is now possible to measure whether the smaller satellite has the same composition as the larger object.

    “These data, combined with all those that are obtained on other telescopes through the IAWN campaign, will be essential for evaluating effective deflection strategies in the event that an asteroid was found to be on a collision course with Earth,” explained ESO astronomer Olivier Hainaut. “In the worst possible case, this knowledge is also essential to predict how an asteroid could interact with the atmosphere and Earth’s surface, allowing us to mitigate damage in the event of a collision.”

    “The double asteroid was hurtling by the Earth at more than 70 000 km/h, making observing it with the VLT challenging,” said Diego Parraguez, who was piloting the telescope. He had to use all his expertise to lock on to the fast asteroid and capture it with SPHERE.

    Bin Yang, VLT astronomer, declared “When we saw the satellite in the AO-corrected images, we were extremely thrilled. At that moment, we felt that all the pain, all the efforts were worth it.” Mathias Jones, another VLT astronomer involved in these observations, elaborated on the difficulties. “During the observations the atmospheric conditions were a bit unstable. In addition, the asteroid was relatively faint and moving very fast in the sky, making these observations particularly challenging, and causing the AO system to crash several times. It was great to see our hard work pay off despite the difficulties!”

    While 1999 KW4 is not an impact threat, it bears a striking resemblance to another binary asteroid system called Didymos which could pose a threat to Earth sometime in the distant future.

    Didymos and its companion called “Didymoon” are the target of a future pioneering planetary defence experiment. NASA’s DART spacecraft will impact Didymoon in an attempt to change its orbit around its larger twin, in a test of the feasibility of deflecting asteroids.

    NASA DART Double Impact Redirection Test vehicle depiction schematic

    After the impact, ESA’s Hera mission will survey the Didymos asteroids in 2026 to gather key information, including Didymoon’s mass, its surface properties and the shape of the DART crater.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft

    The success of such missions depends on collaborations between organisations, and tracking Near-Earth Objects is a major focus for the collaboration between ESO and ESA. This cooperative effort has been ongoing since their first successful tracking of a potentially hazardous NEO in early 2014.

    “We are delighted to be playing a role in keeping Earth safe from asteroids,” said Xavier Barcons, ESO’s Director General. “As well as employing the sophisticated capabilities of the VLT, we are working with ESA to create prototypes for a large network to take asteroid detection, tracking and characterization to the next level.”

    This recent close encounter with 1999 KW4 comes just a month before Asteroid Day, an official United Nations day of education and awareness about asteroids, to be celebrated on 30 June. Events will be held on five continents, and ESO will be among the major astronomical organisations taking part. The ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre will host a range of activities on the theme of asteroids on the day, and members of the public are invited to join in the celebrations.
    Notes

    [1] This distance is about 14 times the distance to the Moon — close enough to study, but not close enough to be threatening! Many small asteroids fly past the Earth much closer than 1999 KW4, occasionally closer than the Moon. Earth’s most recent encounter with an asteroid took place on 15 February 2013, when a previously unknown asteroid 18 metres across exploded as it entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The damage produced by the subsequent shockwave caused injuries to about 1,500 people.

    Links

    ESO/ESA observations of Didymos
    Photos of the VLT
    DART mission
    Hera Mission
    ESOblog on ESA-ESO collaboration
    ESA’s technical web portal for near-Earth objects

    See the full article here .


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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre EEuropean Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO La Silla HELIOS (HARPS Experiment for Light Integrated Over the Sun)

    ESO/HARPS at La Silla

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at Cerro LaSilla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres


    ESO/Cerro LaSilla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert, •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
    •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
    •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
    •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).
    elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo,

    2009 ESO VLTI Interferometer image, Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level, •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
    •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
    •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
    •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun

    Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

    ESO/NTT at Cerro La Silla, Chile, at an altitude of 2400 metres



    Part of ESO’s Paranal Observatory, the VLT Survey Telescope (VISTA) observes the brilliantly clear skies above the Atacama Desert of Chile. It is the largest survey telescope in the world in visible light.
    Credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level


    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres


    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. located at the summit of the mountain at an altitude of 3,060 metres (10,040 ft).

    ESO/APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level


    ESO Speculoos telescopes four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes at ESO Paranal Observatory 2635 metres 8645 ft above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres

    A novel gamma ray telescope under construction on Mount Hopkins, Arizona. a large project known as the Cherenkov Telescope Array, composed of hundreds of similar telescopes to be situated in the Canary Islands and Chile. The telescope on Mount Hopkins will be fitted with a prototype high-speed camera, assembled at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and capable of taking pictures at a billion frames per second. Credit: Vladimir Vassiliev

     
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