The two objects were only identified at the weekend by the Nasa-funded Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, during a routine sky scan.
The first asteroid, christened 2010 RX30, was about 65 feet (20 metres) in diameter and flew past at a distance of 154,000 miles early at 9:51am on Wednesday.
The second, called 2010 RF12, was roughly two-thirds the size of its big brother and estimated to pass within just 49,088 miles of Earth hours later.
While they were visible to many amateur stargazers, space agency researchers said neither asteroid posed a risk to earth.
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“…we must choose between two assumptions: either the souls which move the planets are the less active the farther the planet is removed from the sun, or there is only one moving soul in the center of all the orbits, that is the sun, which drives the planet the more vigorously the closer the planet is, but whose force is quasi-exhausted when acting on the outer planets because of the long distance and the weakening of the force which it entails.” (in ref. 1, p 261)
As the story goes, on Christmas night 2,000 years ago, wise men followed a star in the night sky to reach the baby Jesus. NASA-Ames is following the stars too, looking for life on other worlds, and astronomers have a new celestial tool to help them.
“If we’re going to be looking for planets, earth-like planets are the key,” Foothill College Astronomy Department Chair Andrew Fraknoi said.
Fraknoi has loved astronomy since childhood. He says NASA’s Kepler mission is one of the most exciting in quite some time.
“In the last 16 years, we’ve discovered over 400 planets going around other stars, but the methods so far that we have been using only allowed us to find big planets like Jupiter,” Fraknoi said.
Kepler is a telescope designed to find planets orbiting other stars by looking for a break in the star light as a planet moves in front of it.
The challenge now is to find planets that are half to twice the size of the earth in the habitable zone of their stars, where it is possible that water and even life might exist.
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The ExoMars programme will be launched in partnership with NASA. Credit: ESA
The European Space Agency, in collaboration with NASA, will launch two Mars exploration
missions in 2016 and 2018.
The ExoMars mission will be undertaken to probe the Martian atmosphere, especially astrobiological issues and to develop and demonstrate new technologies for planetary exploration with a long-term view of a future Mars sample return mission in the 2020s, ESA said.
The project, for which around $1.2 billion (850 million euro) has been sanctioned, will include an Orbiter plus an Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator, to be launched in 2016, and two rovers which would be sent in 2018.
“This marks an important moment for Europe in its steps towards space exploration on the world scale,” David Southwood, Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, said.
“We have been to the planets before, sure. But now we have a plan for exploration ahead to build our technical capability and explore Mars in a long-term partnership,” he said.
Eleven of ESA’s 17 member states are participating in the project.
Source: BNS (Paris)
In this 1969 file photo, Astronaut Edwin E ‘Buzz’ Aldrin Jr. walks on the surface of the moon. Future lunar travelers face a radiation dose 30 percent to 40 percent higher than originally expected from radioactive lunar soil. Credit: AP
Future lunar explorers counting on the moon to shield themselves from galactic cosmic rays might want to think about Plan B.
In a surprising discovery, scientists have found that the moon itself is a source of potentially deadly radiation.
Measurements taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter show that the number of high energy particles streaming in from space did not tail off closer to the moon’s surface, as would be expected with the body of the moon blocking half the sky.
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The large body of water was fed through rivers carrying rainwater, scientists believe.
These created a network of valleys on the surface of the planet more than twice as extensive as previously thought, new research reveals.
The findings come just a week after Nasa, the American space agency, announced that they had found water on the surface of the Red Planet, raising hopes of finding life on Mars.
New maps showing that the valleys cover a larger area than previously appreciated has led scientists to believe there was once a single ocean covering much of planet’s northern half.
The extent of the Martian valleys, and what they mean for the chances of life on the planet, have been hotly debated since they were first discovered by the Mariner 9 Spacecraft in 1971.
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NASA’s new asteroid-hunting spacecraft will roll out to the pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Friday in preparation for launch next month.
The spacecraft is due to launch Dec. 9 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket.
Known as the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the spacecraft will spend the next 10 months circling the Earth over the poles, scanning the complete sky at infrared wavelengths to uncover hidden cosmic objects, including cool stars, dark asteroids and luminous galaxies.
“You can kind of think of it as the Google Map of the universe,” said Amy Mainzer, NASA’s deputy project scientist for WISE, explaining that the instrument will take repeated exposures of the same swath of sky, creating overlapping images as the telescope progresses through its sky scan. The stars and galaxies will appear fixed on the sky in each exposure, but asteroids will move over short amounts of time.
“WISE is going to be finding about 100,000 new asteroids in the main asteroid belt,” Mainzer said during a Nov. 17 news conference at NASA headquarters here. “And we expect it’s going to find several hundred new asteroids that get close to Earth orbits. These are asteroids and comets whose orbits take them close to Earth’s orbit.”
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