Entries in Asteriod (2)


Asteroid Hunters Announce First Private Deep Space Mission

Artist's Rendering. Hemera/Thinkstock(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) -- Asteroids could be heading for Earth right now, and the world should not have to live in fear. At least that’s the message of a group of scientists and former astronauts working on the issue. They announced plans today to launch the first privately funded deep space mission in history, a space telescope that would make sure the coast is clear for us.

The SENTINEL mission, announced by the B612 Foundation, would send a telescope into orbit around the sun in order to track small to mid-sized asteroids that could threaten Earth. NASA already works with a network of astronomers to track the most dangerous near-Earth asteroids, those more than two thirds of a mile across. They say they believe they have already identified nearly 90 percent of those deadly space rocks.

However, there is very little data on an estimated 500 million smaller objects that could do us harm — like whatever exploded over the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908, leveling over 800 miles of forest.  The chairman and CEO of the B612 Foundation, former astronaut Ed Lu, says this is a problem.  He flew on the space shuttle, the International Space Station and Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

“We’ve identified and mapped only about one percent of these asteroids to date,” Lu said at a press conference. “During its 5.5-year mission survey time, Sentinel will discover and track half a million Near Earth Asteroids, creating a dynamic map that will provide the blueprint for future exploration of our solar system, while protecting the future of humanity on Earth.”

Don’t expect that dynamic map anytime soon. Launch of the Sentinel telescope is targeted for 2017 or 2018 -- that is, if the project, which would cost several hundred million of dollars, is able to find funding.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Asteroid 2005 YU55 to Pass Earth; Closer Than Moon

NASA scientists are tracking asteroid 2005 YU55 from the agency's Deep Space Network. The space rock makes its closest approach to Earth -- a little over 200,000 miles -- on Nov. 8 at 6:28PM EST. NASA(WASHINGTON) -- A large asteroid called 2005 YU55 is expected to come within approximately 201,700 miles of Earth on Tuesday, according to NASA. That's slightly less than the distance from Earth to the moon.

Asteroids often pass this close, but most are tiny. Countless thousands of pieces come plunging into the atmosphere, but they burn up without doing any harm. If they're as large as grains of sand, we may see them in the night sky as shooting stars.

But 2005 YU55 is at least 1,300 feet wide -- larger than an aircraft carrier, according to radar measurements. The last time an asteroid this big passed by was in 1976, and the next one won't be until 2028, NASA says.

Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., said this fly-by is an opportunity to learn more about c-type -- that is, carbon-based -- asteroids, to find "clues as to what it was like when our solar system was forming."

Asteroids like this one likely crashed into Earth billions of years ago, carrying organic, carbon-based materials, and making life possible. But an impact in modern times could be catastrophic. There have been a few times -- most notably 65 million years ago, at the end of the age of dinosaurs -- when impacts from space wiped out much of the life on Earth.

Ray Williamson, head of an organization called the Secure World Foundation, said he hopes 2005 YU55 will serve as a healthy alert that the nations of the world need to get together and decide what to do if some future asteroid appears to be coming too close for comfort.

Asteroid 2005 YU55 is roughly spherical, spinning slowly. It is darker than charcoal, according to past NASA radar observations.

Its approach is particularly exciting to researchers because they can now study an object they previously could only look at closely with unmanned spacecraft.

The asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye. Amateur stargazers can take a look at the asteroid if they have a reflecting telescope with a light-gathering mirror six inches or more in diameter.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio