Reel ‘er in!
We all know that asteroids close to the Earth are Bad News. (Although not as bad as many would have you think.) But what if we could catch one? Bring it home? Put it in Earth orbit? Maybe mine it for some valuable minerals; do a little science; potentially, I don’t know, back a new currency? Sure, say some Chinese scientists in a paper on the ArXiv. We should go for it!
If you were traveling to Mars solely by spacecraft, your health might take a serious hit during the 18-month or so round-trip journey–and you might not even be able to see your home by the time you got back. Throughout the journey, high-energy particles known as cosmic rays would course through your body, not only damaging your eyesight, but also increasing your risk of cancer by up to 20 percent.
Luckily, one scientist has an answer: Don’t fly a spaceship to Mars, hop on an asteroid instead.
Cosmic rays zing into our solar system from interstellar space; here on Earth our planet’s magnetic field protects us from them, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station are mostly protected by the Earth’s bulk and its magnetic field as well. But astronauts on a long-haul trip to Mars would be in more danger.
Ever felt the inclination to go all Armageddon on the whole planet? Well now you can let those feelings loose through a new asteroid impact simulator from Purdue University and Imperial College London.
“The calculator is a critical tool for determining the potential consequences of an impact…. It is widely used by government and scientific agencies as well as impact research groups and space enthusiasts around the world.”
The simulator is actually an update to the basic tool already used by astronomers and governments to study how an impact would change Earth, to plan for post-disaster scenarios, and to explore asteroid- and comet-deflection technologies. When our planet was young many more space objects crashed into the Earth; while the barrage has slowed, small bits of debris still frequently fly into our atmosphere, says Time:
What happens when you give a brainy, hyperactive astronomer his own TV show? Well first off, explosions happen.
The excitement here at Discover headquarters is palpable–only three days until we get to watch our Bad Astronomy blogger, Phil Plait, tear up the Discovery Channel with his new TV show, Bad Universe. In the inaugural episode Phil examines the threat of an asteroid impact on Earth, and gets his hands on a whole lot–seriously, a whole truckload–of explosives to model the potential disaster. But it’s not all doom and gloom; he also explains what we can do “to keep an impact from ruining our whole day,” as he says.
The show premieres this Sunday, August 29th at 10 p.m. Here’s a sneak peak:
Momma always said to pick up after yourself. Otherwise, you won’t know where your old pieces of junk will end up, and might end up confusing them with asteroids.
Astronomers have decided that a near-Earth object that passed by Earth last week is likely a rocket piece, a chunk of metal left behind in the darkness of space while some orbiter or NASA explorer zoomed off on an exciting mission.
Richard Kowalski at the Catalina Sky Survey discovered “2010 KQ,” a few-meter-wide something or other, headed for Earth on May 16. Tracked by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” the something made a relatively close pass to our planet (it was just a bit further out than the moon’s orbit) on May 21. Yesterday, NASA announced that the object was likely the upper-stage of a rocket.