Category Archives: Asteroids

Incoming Asteroid! Not to Worry.

Here comes asteroid 2012 TC4. Despite a number of internet sites  talking about TC4 as if it is going to hit Earth the asteroid is going to safely pass by. Don’t buy into the doom-mongers click-bait.

Asteroid 2012 TC4 will flyby rather close to be sure.  On 12 October at 05:41 UT / 01:41 ET the asteroid will pass just 50,000 km / 31,000 miles or roughly 30 percent further away than our geosynchronous satellites.

2012 TC4 is about 15 meters / 50 ft and has a period of 1.67 years.  This time around it is going to be a great opportunity to learn what we can.  We will have some radar observations if all goes well and there will be plenty of telescopes aimed at it. The Goldstone radar is planning on observing the asteroid check out this page for a wealth of information.

Sooner or later we will have something to really worry about but probably not from 2012 TC4; in fact assuming nothing happens to change the predicted orbits this is as close it will get until 2079 (NEODyS2).

 

Image: ESA

Hubble Sees a Binary Asteroid

It’s an asteroid pair and also classified as a main belt comet. Very nice work!

NASA — Hubble was used to image the asteroid, designated 300163 (2006 VW139), in September 2016 just before the asteroid made its closest approach to the Sun. Hubble’s crisp images revealed that it was actually not one, but two asteroids of almost the same mass and size, orbiting each other at a distance of 60 miles.

Asteroid 300163 (2006 VW139) was discovered by Spacewatch in November 2006 and then the possible cometary activity was seen in November 2011 by Pan-STARRS. Both Spacewatch and Pan-STARRS are asteroid survey projects of NASA’s Near Earth Object Observations Program. After the Pan-STARRS observations it was also given a comet designation of 288P. This makes the object the first known binary asteroid that is also classified as a main-belt comet.

The more recent Hubble observations revealed ongoing activity in the binary system. “We detected strong indications for the sublimation of water ice due to the increased solar heating — similar to how the tail of a comet is created,” explained team leader Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany.

The combined features of the binary asteroid — wide separation, near-equal component size, high eccentricity orbit, and comet-like activity — also make it unique among the few known binary asteroids that have a wide separation. Understanding its origin and evolution may provide new insights into the early days of the solar system. Main-belt comets may help to answer how water came to a bone-dry Earth billions of years ago.

The team estimates that 2006 VW139/288P has existed as a binary system only for about 5,000 years. The most probable formation scenario is a breakup due to fast rotation. After that, the two fragments may have been moved further apart by the effects of ice sublimation, which would give a tiny push to an asteroid in one direction as water molecules are ejected in the other direction.

The fact that 2006 VW139/288P is so different from all other known binary asteroids raises some questions about how common such systems are in the asteroid belt. “We need more theoretical and observational work, as well as more objects similar to this object, to find an answer to this question,” concluded Agarwal.

The research is presented in a paper, to be published in the journal Nature this week.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

For additional images, visit: http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2017-32

Credits: NASA, ESA, and J. DePasquale and Z. Levay (STScI)

 

Two Moons for Florence


Asteroid Florence or more properly 3122 Florence (1981 ET3) was discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in March 1981 and named for Florence Nightingale made a “close” flyby on 01 September 2017.

The actual distance of the flyby was (about) 7,065,270 km / 4,390,155 miles which is close enough for an object that has a diameter of 4.5 km / 2.8 miles. Also close enough to get nice radar images using the 70-m antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex (Images: NASA).

To almost everyones surprise Florence has two moons which makes Florence a triple asteroid system. There are now three known “triples” in the population of 16,400 asteroids and the other two were also discovered by radar, the last discovery was asteroid named 1994 CC made in 2009.

NASA — “The sizes of the two moons are not yet well known, but they are probably between 100 – 300 meters (300-1000 feet) across. The times required for each moon to revolve around Florence are also not yet known precisely but appear to be roughly 8 hours for the inner moon and 22 to 27 hours for the outer moon. The inner moon of the Florence system has the shortest orbital period of any of the moons of the 60 near-Earth asteroids known to have moons. In the Goldstone radar images, which have a resolution of 75 meters, the moons are only a few pixels in extent and do not reveal any detail.

The radar images also provide our first close-up view of Florence itself. Although the asteroid is fairly round, it has a ridge along its equator, at least one large crater, two large flat regions, and numerous other small-scale topographic features. The images also confirm that Florence rotates once every 2.4 hours, a result that was determined previously from optical measurements of the asteroid’s brightness variations.”

An orbital period of 2.35 years should allow for subsequent observations in future encounters. Speaking of close encounters, we will have a VERY CLOSE encounter with asteroid 2012 TC4 on October 12 when it will pass just 0.13 lunar distances away, that’s only 49,972 km / 31,051 miles!

Edit:  Sorry about the late posting, operator error.

Backyard Asteroid Hunters

Backyard astronomer Robert Holmes of Westfield, Illinois is a asteroid hunter and you can do this too. Mr. Holmes made over 36,000 observations in 2015!

Not that I’d know, we have had ZERO nights with clear skies in the past two weeks and we had 7 cm of rain yesterday in about six hours. I’m heading out to look at the flood damage in the area – nothing in the way of damage here.

Asteroid Hunters

NASA – Two unique ground telescope operations, at the Catalina Sky Survey in Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, and the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or PanSTARRS, located at Haleakala, Hawaii, are responsible for about 90 percent of all near-Earth object discoveries.

Asteroid 2014 JO25

Wow, this asteroid is getting a lot of press! That’s good! The asteroid is not a problem for us and won’t be for quite some time. Check out the NEODyS-2 site page for 2014 JO25. NEODyS-2 is a good place to bookmark as is Earth’s Busy Neighborhood.

The asteroid is large, around 812 meters in diameter and will be about 1.61 million km / million miles (4.57 Lunar distances from us) at the closest so it is comfortably far away.

The great part about this fly-by is it will give us the opportunity to really study something this large and therefore potentially hazardous up-close, perhaps even radar images.

2017 BQ6

A very nice radar image of asteroid 2017 BQ6.

This composite of 11 images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 was generated with radar data collected using NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California’s Mojave Desert on Feb. 5, 2017, between 5:24 and 5:52 p.m. PST (8:24 to 8:52 p.m. EST / 1:24 to 1:52 UTC). The images have resolutions as fine as 12 feet (3.75 meters) per pixel. – NASA

This newly discovered asteroid passed 6.57 lunar distances from Earth at 06:35 UTC a couple days after this image was acquired. The asteroid has a diameter of 177 meters / 581 feet and will pass again in 2036 (but not quite as close).

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

Launch Day

Later today NASA will launch the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will lift off on a mission to study an asteroid in unprecedented detail. The study will include taking a small sample of asteroid Bennu and returning it to Earth for firsthand analysis.

The launch has about an 80 percent chance go due to weather at the Kennedy Space Center at 19:05 EDT / 23:05 UTC.

Video

A LIVE LINK WILL BE POSTED ABOUT AN HOUR BEFORE LAUNCH