NASA's Dawn spacecraft has concluded its survey of the asteroid Vesta and is now heading to Ceres, the largest asteroid (or smallest dwarf planet) in the solar system. As Dawn's mission director puts it, "thrust is engaged, and we are now climbing away from Vesta atop a blue-green pillar of xenon ions." Whoa.
Believe it or not, Bruce Willis had sort of the right idea in Armageddon: the most effective way to nuke an asteroid that's threatening Earth is to detonate the weapon deep inside the rock as opposed to on the surface. There may be a Willis/Affleck-free way to make this happen, by using an artificial asteroid of our own.
About three billion years ago, Greenland got in a fight with some massive celestial body. From what we can tell, Greenland got its butt handed to it. That's the finding (more or less) of a research team which claims to have discovered a 62-mile-wide crater near the Maniitsoq region of western Greenland.
Not content to sit back and wait for an asteroid to obliterate all life on Earth, a group of scientists and space vets are launching their own telescope. Sentinel will be the world's first privately funded space telescope, and it will orbit the sun and map out the asteroids lurking around the interior of our solar system.
When Planetary Resources first announced its ambitious plan to start mining asteroids, the company also mentioned that the rest of us might get a little piece of the action with access to a network of space telescopes. Now, Planetary has announced that it might try and do it from the get-go, through Kickstarter.
Planetary Resources just wrapped up a press conference in Seattle, officially announcing both its existence and its ambitious plan to mine near-Earth asteroids. We were listening in live, and here's everything you need to know about how this asteroid mining plan is going to work and when it's going to happen.
Asteroids aren't something to be concerned about on a day to day basis, but once every couple hundred years or so, we get hit with a doozy. The last one hit Siberia in 1908, so it's about time to start to come up with a defense plan, and one new idea involves a bunch of tiny satellites with solar-powered lasers.
When boring people like you and I go on vacation, we might go camping in the woods or something. But not NASA. NASA goes camping on a virtual asteroid. And the worst part is that NASA didn't actually have to take any time off: asteroid camping (among other things) is what it does for a living. Asteroid camping. Not fair.
You can't hear a meteor as it burns up in the atmosphere, but you can bounce radar off of it and convert that signal into sound. The U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas tried this during the Perseid meteor shower, and the resulting recording sounds appropriately alien.
Today we can all breathe a little easier thanks to a new survey of near-earth asteroids by NASA's Wide-field Infared Survey Explorer (WISE). After a year of scanning the celestial sky with infrared light between January 2010 and February 2011, the study has shown there are significantly fewer mid-size near-Earth asteroids than thought. That's not even the best news.