Blog Archives

Planetary defenders: after NASA’s DART comes ESA’s Hera

The world will be watching the milestone launch of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, DART, spacecraft on Wednesday, 24 November, intended to alter one small part of the Solar System forever.

DART will collide with the small moon of an asteroid in order to shift its orbit around its parent body –

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Vast patches of glassy rock in Chilean desert likely created by ancient exploding comet

Around 12,000 years ago, something scorched a vast swath of the Atacama Desert in Chile with heat so intense that it turned the sandy soil into widespread slabs of silicate glass. Now, a research team studying the distribution and composition of those glasses has come to a conclusion about what caused the inferno.

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NASA awards $15M for asteroid hunting telescopes on Maui

The University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA) received a $15 million NASA grant to continue its world-leading efforts to discover Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs).

IfA’s Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) atop Haleakala currently finds nearly as many NEOs and PHAs as the rest of the world’s observatories combined,

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A spacecraft could use gravity to prevent a dangerous asteroid impact

The idea of avoiding asteroid impacts has featured prominently in the public’s mind for decades – especially since the release of Deep Impact and Armageddon.  But is using a nuclear explosion the best way to deal with potentially hazardous space rocks?  Decidedly not.  If given enough time, there is a much more effective (and safer) way to dealing with any object on a collision course with Earth – a gravity tractor. 

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Is Planetary Defense PI in the Sky?

In February of 2013, skywatchers around the world turned their attention toward asteroid 2012 DA14, a cosmic rock about 150 feet (50 meters) in diameter that was going to fly closer to Earth than the spacecraft that bring us satellite TV.

Little did they realize as they prepared for the once-in-several-decades event that another bit of celestial debris was hurtling toward Earth,

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Is new discovery an asteroid, a comet or both?

The newest known example of a rare type of object in the Solar System – a comet hidden among the main-belt asteroids – has been found and studied, according to a new paper by Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Henry Hsieh. Discovered to be active on July 7, 2021, by the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) survey,

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Did a cosmic impact destroy an ancient city in the Jordan Valley

In the Middle Bronze Age (about 3600 years ago or roughly 1650 BCE), the city of Tall el-Hammam was ascendant. Located on high ground in the southern Jordan Valley, northeast of the Dead Sea, the settlement in its time had become the largest continuously occupied Bronze Age city in the southern Levant,

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Discovery about meteorites informs atmospheric entry threat assessment

Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign watched fragments of two meteors as they ramped up the heat from room temperature to the temperature it reaches as it enters Earth’s atmosphere and made a significant discovery. The vaporized iron sulfide leaves behind voids, making the material more porous. This information will help when predicting the weight of a meteor,

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Asteroid Ryugu in opposition to Hayabusa 2

New analysis of Hayabusa2 data of the asteroid Ryugu reveals much of the surface reflects and scatters light in ways that are consistent with studies of carbonaceous chondrite meteorites in the lab. This research looks specifically at data taken while Ryugu was in opposition to the spacecraft and Sun, and utilizes Hayabusa2’s near infrared spectrometer,

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OSIRIS-REx helps scientists model the orbit of hazardous asteroid Bennu

The half-a-kilometer-wide asteroid Bennu is already one of the most well-studied asteroids prior to the OSIRIS-REx mission.

By using positional data collected over the course of the two-year sample return mission, however, scientists were able to improve their knowledge of Bennu’s trajectory by a factor of 20, NASA scientists said at a press briefing.

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