2014 UF56

A newly discovered 11-meter wide asteroid passed by Earth at about 164,244 km/ 102,056 miles or 0.43 LD (lunar distance) at 21:20 on 27 Oct 2014.

JPL Small-Body Database.

The asteroid discovery credit goes to a Mt. Lemmon Survey observation at 0521 UT 25 Oct. 2014

This asteroid will come back around in 2018 but shouldn’t be anywhere near as close according to NEODys.

2014 RC Pays a Visit

A depiction of the flyby of 2014 RC. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A depiction of the flyby of 2014 RC. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On 07 September 2014, asteroid 2014 RC will flyby by the Earth.  It will be a very close flyby too, only 40,000 km / 25,000 miles from Earth. The orbit will pose no danger to us.  Even so according to NASA (see below), 2014 RC could even be visible as it will be around a magnitude 11 making it visible in small telescopes provided you have dark skies when it passes by at 18:18 UT when it will be over New Zealand when it makes this close approach.

In case you are in a place you might be able to see the fly-by, you can get the ephemeris here from the IAU Minor Planet Center.

From NASA:

A small asteroid, designated 2014 RC, will safely pass very close to Earth on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014. At the time of closest approach, based on current calculations to be about 2:18 p.m. EDT (11:18 a.m. PDT / 18:18 UTC), the asteroid will be roughly over New Zealand. From its reflected brightness, astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about 60 feet (20 meters) in size.

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The Beast

A few days ago you may recall there was an asteroid that passed by Earth. The asteroid passed about three times further from us than our moon. Yes that is quite a ways out, but compared to cosmic distances, pretty close.

NASA was able to get some great images of the more than 366 meter (1200 ft) long oblong shaped rock once it had passed. The video above was pieced together from images taken at a range of 1.25 and 1.39 million km (774,000 to 864,000 miles).

The images were captured by the 70-meter Goldstone antenna working with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

As an aside: Arecibo is located in a seismically active area being not far from the Caribbean plate boundary. Generally the quakes are fairly small, for example yesterday 14 June there was a magnitude 2.7 quake at a depth of 26 km (22.4 miles) occurred 75 km (47 miles) out in the ocean and that was among eight occurring in the previous 24 hours having magnitudes of 2.7 to 3.2. Sure those are pretty small but I wonder if they are noticed by the observatory especially during an observing run.

The same could be asked of the ESO and Keck now that I think of it, it’s just that Arecibo is so huge.

A Curious First

The Mars rover, Curiosity takes the first image of an asteroid from Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M

The Mars rover, Curiosity takes the first image of an asteroid from Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M

The Curiosity has taken the first image of an asteroid taken from the surface of the Red Planet.

You will notice the asteroids and stars are streaks thanks to the 12 second exposure and the planetary rotation. The Martian rotates about its axis in 24.6 hours, only slightly longer than it does here on Earth.

The other object is the little moon Deimos. The image was taken on Sol 606 or 20 April 2014 (PDT).

Here is the non-annotated version. The moon Deimos appears larger than it normally would because brightness bloating.

Here’s part of NASA’s description

The Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has captured the first image of an asteroid taken from the surface of Mars. The night-sky image actually includes two asteroids: Ceres and Vesta, plus one of Mars’ two moons, Deimos, which may have been an asteroid before being captured into orbit around Mars. The image was taken after nightfall on the 606th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (April 20, 2014, PDT). In other camera pointings the same night, the Mastcam also imaged Mars’ larger moon, Phobos, plus the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

I’m looking for the image with the planets.

In the meantime here’s the full article from NASA.

Hubble Catches Breakup

I first saw this and thought Hubble caught a comet breaking up, turns out it isn’t it’s an asteroid! Not to mention another Hubble first. The four largest fragments are as much as 200 meters in diameter.

“This is a rock. Seeing it fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing,” said David Jewitt of UCLA, USA, who led the astronomical forensics investigation.

Get the story at ESA’s Hubble page.

Video source

Asteroid 2006 DP14

Radar image of asteroid 2006 DP14. Click for larger. Credit: NASA et al.

I must confess I’ve never really considered this before and the way the press release is worded leaves me with the question: are these “contact binaries” actually two separate asteroids or are they just sort of stuck together by whatever (like gravitationally bound, impact fused etc)?

The NASA press release:

A collage of radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2006 DP14 was generated by NASA scientists using the 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., on the night of Feb. 11, 2014.

Delay-Doppler radar imaging revealed that the asteroid is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) long, 660 feet (200 meters) wide, and shaped somewhat like a big peanut. The asteroid’s period of rotation is about six hours. The asteroid is of a type known as a “contact binary” because it has two large lobes on either end that appear to be in contact. Previous radar data from Goldstone and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has shown that at least 10 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than about 650 feet (200 meters) have contact binary shapes like that of 2006 DP14. The data were obtained over an interval of 2.5 hours as the asteroid completed about half a revolution. The resolution is about 60 feet (19 meters) per pixel.

The data were obtained on Feb. 11 between 9:03 a.m. and 11:27 p.m. PST (12:03 a.m. to 2:27 a.m. EST on Feb. 12). At the time of the observations, the asteroid’s distance was about 2.6 million miles (4.2 million kilometers) from Earth. That is about 11 times the average distance between Earth and its moon. The asteroid’s closest approach to Earth occurred on Feb. 10, at a distance of about 1.5 million miles (2.4 million kilometers).
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Science@NASA put up a video about Earth impacting asteroids, notably 2014AA the New Years Day asteroid.

Hey it’s more interesting than the learning the new Federal Grants Program procedures classes I’ve been at for the past two days.  :mrgreen:


New Year’s Asteroid

Asteroid 2014 AA, discovered by the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey on Jan. 1, 2014, as it moved across the sky. Image Credit: CSS/LPL/UA. Clicking on the image will take you to a larger image at NASA.

The Catalina Sky Survey found the first asteroid of the new year early Wednesday morning. The asteroid was a wee one, just 2 or 3 meters (7 to 10 feet) in diameter.

I should say “apparently” because the object can no longer be observed. From the series of images they obtained put together in the animation above it sure looks to be asteroid 2014 AA, what else could it be?

You might wonder why they don’t just do more observations. The answer is they can’t. 2014 AA was on a potential Earth impact trajectory and most likely entered the atmosphere between 19:00 UTC Wednesday and 14:00 UTC Thursday.

There were no fireball sighting reports (at least not yet), there are and most likely the asteroid broke apart on entry.

Using the only available observations, three independent projections of the possible orbit by the independent orbit analyst Bill Gray, of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., and Steve Chesley, of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are in agreement that 2014 AA would hit Earth’s atmosphere. According to Chesley, the potential impact locations are widely distributed because of the orbit uncertainty, falling along an arc extending from Central America to East Africa. The most likely impact location of the object was just off the coast of West Africa at about 6 p.m. PST (9 p.m. EST) Jan. 1.

In the Crow’s Nest – SST

Joe asked if anyone was manning the “Crows Nest”, yes, and they are about to get an even better look.


Advanced Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) readies for 9,000-mile journey to Western Australia to enable valuable monitoring of objects 22,000 miles above Earth

As satellites become more common, they face growing risk of colliding with space debris and even each other. The U.S. Department of Defense has thus made space situational awareness a top priority to maintain communication, Earth observation and other critical capabilities upon which military, civilian and commercial functions rely. Traditional telescope technology, however, has difficulty finding and tracking small objects—such as debris and satellites—across wide tracks of sky, especially at the increasingly crowded geosynchronous orbits roughly 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface.

To help overcome these challenges, DARPA has developed the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST). Through its unique combination of several novel technologies, the SST program seeks to enable much faster discovery and tracking of previously unseen, hard-to-find small objects in geosynchronous orbits. The SST will soon move from its current mountaintop location in New Mexico, where the system underwent operational testing and evaluation, to Australia, where it will provide key space situational awareness from the southern hemisphere—an area of the geosynchronous belt that is still largely unexplored.

Read the rest of the press release at the DARPA site.

BTW, our ice storm continues, it’s a mess out there. Power is back for now.

Asteroid P/2013 P5

Hubble looks at a six-tailed asteroid. Credit: NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (University of California, Los Angeles), J. Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research), H. Weaver (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory), M. Mutchler (STScI), and S. Larson (University of Arizona)

Hubble looks at a six-tailed asteroid. Credit: NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (University of California, Los Angeles), J. Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research), H. Weaver (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory), M. Mutchler (STScI), and S. Larson (University of Arizona)

How cool is this? It’s an asteroid with an identity crisis. Just like the press release (linked below) says, an asteroid normally appears as a point of light. Not P/2013 P5, this thing is very comet-like in that it has a tail. In fact it has six tails!?

Six Tails? Wait, comets are ice and asteroids are rock. How does that happen?

Careful modeling by team member Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Lindau, Germany, showed that the tails could have been formed by a series of impulsive dust-ejection events. She calculated that the first ejection event occurred on April 15 and the last one on Sept. 4. The rest sequentially erupted on July 18, July 24, Aug. 8, and Aug. 26. Radiation pressure from the Sun smears out the dust into streamers.

The asteroid could possibly have been spun up if the pressure of sunlight exerted a torque on the body. If the asteroid’s spin rate became fast enough, Jewitt said, the asteroid’s weak gravity would no longer be able to hold it together. Dust might avalanche downslope towards the equator, and maybe shatter and fall off, eventually drifting into space to make a tail. So far, only a small fraction of the main mass, perhaps 100 to 1,000 tons of dust, has been lost. The 700-foot-radius nucleus is thousands of times more massive.

Follow-on observations may show if the dust leaves the asteroid in the equatorial plane, and this would be pretty strong evidence for a rotational breakup. Astronomers will also try to measure the asteroid’s true spin rate.

Here’s the full press release and links to larger images.