Near-Earth Objects (NEO) have long been a dilemma for scientists, especially since the discovery of 99942 Apophis in 2004. Apophis was first believed to be heading directly towards earth, and create...
Near-Earth Objects (NEO) have long been a dilemma for scientists, especially since the discovery of 99942 Apophis in 2004. Apophis was first believed to be heading directly towards earth, and created a bit of a stir when people realized that it could hit earth in 2029. However, since then, due to several recalculations and lucky happenstances, the asteroid has only a 1 in 45,000 chance of hitting earth.
Astrophycisist, Sir Martin Rees pf Cambridge University, has famously speculated that the asteroid risk is just one of many reasons why humankind has only a 50/50 chance of making it into the next century. Even so, he says comets are more frightening of a doomsday prospect.
Pound for pound, comets are much more dangerous than asteroids, which have nonetheless gotten more media attention. Comets travel a lot faster through space than Asteroids, which travel at about 25-30 km per second. The speed of a comet approaches a much faster 70 km per second. A relatively small object of just one and a half km in diameter hitting the Earth would release more energy than all the atomic bombs ever detonated and then some. An object of 20 km or more would likely cause mass extinction.
A massive dark, asteroid dubbed 1998 QE2 will make its closest pass to Earth on May 31 at 1:59 p.m.Its 1.7 miles long; its surface is covered in a black substance. If it impacted Earth, it would probably result in global extinction. Good thing it is just making a flyby. Scientists are not sure where this unusually large space rock, which was discovered 15 years ago, originated. But the mysterious sooty substance on its surface could indicate it may be a result of a comet that flew too close to the sun, said Amy Mainzer, who tracks near-Earth objects at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in La Canada Flintridge, Calif. It might also have leaked out of the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, she said.
In 2016, NASA will launch a robotic probe to one of the most potentially hazardous of the known NEOs. The OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid (101955) Bennu will be a pathfinder for future spacecraft designed to perform reconnaissance on any newly-discovered threatening objects. Aside from monitoring potential threats, the study of asteroids and comets enables a valuable opportunity to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the source of water on Earth, and even the origin of organic molecules that lead to the development of life.
NASA recently announced developing a first-ever mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid for human exploration. Using game-changing technologies advanced by the Administration, this mission would mark an unprecedented technological achievement that raises the bar of what humans can do in space. Capturing and redirecting an asteroid will integrate the best of NASA's science, technology and human exploration capabilities and draw on the innovation of America's brightest scientists and engineers.
Observations from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission indicated the family of asteroids some believed was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs is not likely the culprit, keeping open the case on one of Earth's greatest mysteries.
Scientists are confident a large asteroid crashed into Earth approximately 65 million years ago, leading to the extinction of dinosaurs and some other life forms on our planet, hiwever, they do not know exactly where the asteroid came from or how it made its way to Earth. A 2007 study using visible-light data from ground-based telescopes first suggested the remnant of a huge asteroid, known as Baptistina, as a possible suspect.
According to that theory, Baptistina crashed into another asteroid in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter about 160 million years ago. The collision sent shattered pieces as big as mountains flying. One of those pieces was believed to have impa