You want to protect the Earth from asteroids? Where were you when the dinosaurs needed you? You want to be like Bruce Willis in that asteroid movie?
Wie has a serious reply: After five years of science and engineering work, Wie and his small team have a publication list of 40-plus technical papers, $600,000 of NASA research support and a proposal for a $500 million test launch of an asteroid intercept system. Plus, Wie has just been invited to show off his research as part of NASA’s Technology Day on the Hill in Washington, D.C., on April 17.
“It’s not a laughing matter,” said Wie, the director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center at Iowa State University and the Vance D. Coffman Faculty Chair and professor of aerospace engineering.
Recent events have certainly highlighted the threat of asteroid strikes. There was the 15-meter (49-foot) meteor that exploded an estimated 12 miles over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, damaging buildings and injuring more than 1,000 people. That same day, the 45-meter (148-foot) asteroid 2012 DA14 passed within 17,200 miles of Earth.
Slooh Space Camera To Track Newly Discovered Near-Earth Object 2013 ET Zooming By Earth At Only 2.5 Lunar Distances Away
Discovered on March 3, 2013, by the Catalina Sky Survey, NEO (near-Earth object) 2013 ET, an asteroid the size of a city block, will make its closest approach to Earth on Saturday, March 9th, less than 7 days after it was discovered. Slooh Space Camera will cover its closest approach on Saturday, live on Slooh.com, free to the public, starting at 12:15 p.m. PST / 3:15 p.m. EST / 20:15 UTC — International times at http://goo.gl/kQJuL — accompanied by real-time discussions with Slooh president Patrick Paolucci, Slooh engineer Paul Cox, and documentary filmmaker Duncan Copp. Viewers can watch live on their PC/MAC or iOS/Android mobile device.
The asteroid is estimated to be approximately 64-140 meters (210-460 feet) wide and will pass 2.5 times the Moon’s distance from our planet. At its maximum brightness on March 9th, NEO 2013 ET will be at a relatively dim magnitude of 17 — not bright enough to view through a backyard telescope, but should be reasonably bright through Slooh telescopes in the Canary Islands, off the coast of west Africa.
Although scientists involved in NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission were confident they would eventually be able to rewrite the textbook on Earth’s twin radiation belts, getting material for the new edition just two days after launch was surprising, momentous, and gratifying.
The Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission, subsequently renamed in honor of the belts’ discoverer, astrophysicist James Van Allen, was launched in the pre-dawn hours of August 30, 2012. Shortly thereafter, and well ahead of schedule in normal operational protocol, mission scientists turned on the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) to gather data in parallel with another, aging satellite that was poised to fall from orbit and reenter Earth’s atmosphere. It was a fortuitous decision.
The telescope, which is part of the Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma (ECT) instrument suite led by the Space Science Center at the University of New Hampshire, immediately sent back data that at first confounded scientists but then provided a eureka moment: seen for the first time was a transient third radiation belt of high-energy particles formed in the wake of a powerful solar event that happened shortly after REPT began taking data.
Full Story: http://www.eos.sr.unh.edu/news/indiv_news.shtml?NEWS_ID=1373
It’s Dec. 3 and a scattering of people in St. Louis, Mo., Pasadena, Calif., and Greenbelt, Md., are getting antsy, clicking repeatedly on http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/antarctica/ice.htm to see whether anything is up yet. Like a balloon, for example.
They’re waiting for a two-ton balloon-borne cosmic-ray experiment called Super-TIGER to be launched into the high-altitude polar vortex over Antarctica.
The experiment, which the scientists hope will confirm that cosmic rays are created in loosely organized groups of hot, massive stars called OB associations, is a collaboration of Washington University in St. Louis, the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The team also includes people from the University of Minnesota and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
A small pocket of Western Australia’s remote outback is set to become the eye on the sky and could potentially save the world billions of dollars. The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope, unveiled today, Friday 30 November, will give the world a dramatically improved view of the Sun and provide early warning to prevent damage to communication satellites, electric power grids and GPS navigation systems.
The $51 million low-frequency radio telescope will be able to detect and monitor massive solar storms, such as the one that cut power to six million people in Canada in 1989 during the last peak in solar activity. In 2011, experts warned that a major solar storm could result in damage to integral power supplies and communication networks of up to US$2 trillion – the equivalent of a global Hurricane Katrina.
The MWA will aim to identify the trajectory of solar storms, quadrupling the warning period currently provided by near-Earth satellites. This is timely as the Sun is due to re-enter peak activity in 2013, with a dramatic increase in the number and severity of solar storms expected, with the potential to disrupt global communications and ground commercial airlines.
ESA’s quartet of satellites studying Earth’s magnetosphere, Cluster, has discovered that our protective magnetic bubble lets the solar wind in under a wider range of conditions than previously believed.
Earth’s magnetic field is our planet’s first line of defence against the bombardment of the solar wind. This stream of plasma is launched by the Sun and travels across the Solar System, carrying its own magnetic field with it.
Depending on how the solar wind’s interplanetary magnetic field – IMF – is aligned with Earth’s magnetic field, different phenomena can arise in Earth’s immediate environment.
One well-known process is magnetic reconnection, where magnetic field lines pointing in opposite directions spontaneously break and reconnect with other nearby field lines. This redirects their plasma load into the magnetosphere, opening the door to the solar wind and allowing it to reach Earth.
Full Story: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMOVAMFL8H_index_0.html
The giant impact believed to have formed the Earth-Moon system has long been accepted as canon. However, a major challenge to the theory has been that the Earth and Moon have identical oxygen isotope compositions, even though earlier impact models indicated they should differ substantially. In a paper published today in the journal Science online, a new model by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), motivated by accompanying work by others on the early dynamical history of the Moon, accounts for this similarity in composition while also yielding an appropriate mass for Earth and Moon.
In the giant impact scenario, the Moon forms from debris ejected into an Earth-orbiting disk by the collision of a smaller proto-planet with the early Earth. Earlier models found that most or much of the disk material would have originated from the Mars-sized impacting body, whose composition likely would have differed substantially from that of Earth.
The new models developed by Dr. Robin M. Canup, an associate vice president in the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division, and funded by the NASA Lunar Science Institute, involve much larger impactors than were previously considered. In the new simulations, both the impactor and the target are of comparable mass, with each containing about 4 to 5 times the mass of Mars. The near symmetry of the collision causes the disk’s composition to be extremely similar to that of the final planet’s mantle over a relatively broad range of impact angles and speeds, consistent with the Earth-Moon compositional similarities.
Astrophysicists from the University of New Hampshire’s Space Science Center (SSC) have created the first online system for predicting and forecasting the radiation environment in near-Earth, lunar, and Martian space environments. The near real-time tool will provide critical information as preparations are made for potential future manned missions to the moon and Mars.
“If we send human beings back to the moon, and especially if we’re able to go to Mars, it will be critical to have a system like this in place to protect astronauts from radiation hazards,” says associate professor of physics Nathan Schwadron of the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS), which houses the SSC.
The website provides updates of the radiation environment on an hourly basis and archives the data weekly, monthly, and yearly. This historical record provides a clear picture of when a safe radiation dose limit is reached for skin or blood-forming organs, for example.
Full Story: http://www.eos.unh.edu/news/indiv_news.shtml?NEWS_ID=1347
PREDICCS Website: http://prediccs.sr.unh.edu/
Microorganisms that crashed to Earth embedded in the fragments of distant planets might have been the sprouts of life on this one, according to new research presented at the European Planetary Sciences Congress (EPSC) on 25 September.
The researchers report that under certain conditions there is a high probability that life came to Earth — or spread from Earth to other planets — during the Solar System’s infancy when Earth and its planetary neighbours orbiting other stars would have been close enough to each other to exchange lots of solid material.
The findings provide the strongest support yet for lithopanspermia, the hypothesis that basic life forms are distributed throughout the Universe via meteorite-like planetary fragments cast forth by disruptions such as volcanic eruptions and collisions with objects such as asteroids.
Microorganisms that crashed to Earth embedded in the fragments of distant planets might have been the sprouts of life on this one, according to new research from Princeton University, the University of Arizona and the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) in Spain.
The researchers report in the journal Astrobiology that under certain conditions there is a high probability that life came to Earth — or spread from Earth to other planets — during the solar system’s infancy when Earth and its planetary neighbors orbiting other stars would have been close enough to each other to exchange lots of solid material.
The findings provide the strongest support yet for “lithopanspermia,” the idea that basic life forms are distributed throughout the universe via meteorite-like planetary fragments cast forth by disruptions such as volcanic eruptions and collisions with other matter. Eventually, another planetary system’s gravity traps these roaming rocks, which can result in a mingling that transfers any living cargo.