Archive | July 31, 2016

NASA – Asteroid Bennu’s Journey

NASA to land on asteroid that could have once seeded life, but may now destroy Earth

Bennu © NASA
Bennu © NASA
NASA is about to launch a $1 billion 7-year mission to probe asteroid Bennu, which may carry the building blocks of organic life, but also has a chance of hitting Earth late in the next century.
“It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death,” Dante Lauretta, professor of planetary science at Arizona University and the lead researcher on the OSIRIS-REx mission, told the Sunday Times.
Discovered in 1999, Bennu measures about 500 meters across, weighs over 60 million tons, and travels at over 100,000 kilometers per hour.
Its trajectory is unpredictable due to what is known as the Yarkovsky effect, in which the asteroid absorbs the energy of sunlight and then gives it off as heat, which serves as a thruster that constantly makes slight shifts to its path.
Lauretta says that, if Bennu were to hit Earth, its impact would be equivalent to setting off 3 billion tons of high explosives, similar in potential effect to the asteroid that may have wiped out most life on the planet 66 million years ago – though that asteroid is thought to have been about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) across.
“We estimate the chance of impact at about one in 2,700 between 2175 and 2196,” said Lauretta.
While OSIRIS-REx will help refine our estimate of the asteroid’s trajectory, largely by helping researchers to get a better grasp on its Yarkovsky effect, this is not the prime reason for sending it to Bennu, which is named after an Egyptian deity.
Aged over 4 billion years, Bennu is a contemporary of asteroids that, according to a hypothesis known as Panspermia, could have brought new elements and water to Earth in its early stages, giving it a ready-made foundation from which life may have emerged.
“Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid, an ancient relic from the early solar system that is filled with organic molecules,” said Lauretta. “Asteroids like Bennu may have seeded the early Earth with this material, contributing to the primordial soup from which life emerged.”
To learn Bennu’s secrets, the 1.7-ton OSIRIS-REx, which is due to be launched on September 8, is equipped with one of the most sophisticated scanning suites in space exploration history.
OSIRIS-REx Approaches Bennu © NASA
OSIRIS-REx Approaches Bennu © NASA
When the spacecraft approaches the asteroid in 2018, it will first carefully examine it with visible and infrared spectrometers to determine which parts of the asteroid are likely to contain the most biologically interesting samples.
It will land only after identifying the perfect spot for collecting a sample of between 60 grams and one kilogram. The capsule containing the material will then be thrust towards Earth, where it will hopefully land somewhere in Utah in 2023.
“We need to know everything about Bennu – its size, mass and composition,” said Lauretta. “This could be vital data for future generations.”
Courtesy of

Deadly Flooding Rips Through Ellicott City, Maryland, USA

Severe Flood Warning

A deadly flood ripped through the center of Ellicott City, Md., on Saturday night, killing two people and shattering store fronts in the historic town west of Baltimore, officials said.
A man and a woman died in the flooding, while several people who had been reported missing after the flood were all accounted for, Andy Barth, a spokesman for Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, said on Sunday. Mr. Barth couldn’t provide any additional information about the dead.
Nearly 6 inches of rain poured on Howard County in two hours on Saturday night, causing floodwaters to rush down the town’s Main Street toward the Patapsco River, which flows through town.
Dramatic images from the flooding and its aftermath showed a torrent of water picking up cars, a chain of people holding hands to save a woman stuck in the rushing waters, and whole sections of pavement missing as people toured in shock the ravaged business district.
Mr. Barth said it was the worst destruction in his memory, including the flooding from a hurricane in 1972.
“It’s really overwhelming,” he said. The majority of the damage was to businesses occupying the first floor of buildings lining both sides of the town’s main street, he said.
A search team, including Howard County police, area firefighters and emergency services, continued to pick through the wreckage, where they could uncover more casualties, Mr. Barth said.
Gov. Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency to make sure critical funds reach the beleaguered town. “We are coordinating all available resources to address this emergency as quickly as possible,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Hogan arrived in Ellicott City on Sunday morning to tour the destruction. Repairs were “going to be a long process,” he told reporters.
The low-lying town’s vulnerability to flooding goes back to Colonial times, when the settlers first established a mill along the Patapsco.
County Executive Allan Kittleman called town residents resilient. They would use local, state and federal funds to repair the destruction. “When you have 5.9 inches of rain in two hours, I hate to say this, but there’s probably nothing you could have done to stop this,” Mr. Kittleman told reporters.
“They’re going to be strong. They’re going to rebuild.”
Courtesy of

Rare waterspout destroys property in Prior Lake, Minnesota, USA

Waterspout Alert

A rare weather phenomenon known as a waterspout caused damage along the shoreline of Prior Lake the morning of July 23. Woody Spitzmueller, who lives on Grainwood Circle on Lower Prior Lake, described the scene as a “mini-tornado.” Spitzmueller and his wife Barb were out in their yard, getting ready to leave for a family reunion, already on edge about the potential for strong storms that day.
Courtesy of

Huge waterspout swirling above stormy skies over Suffolk, UK

Chef Phil Hannam captured the waterspout spiralling over the small village of Thorpeness
Chef Phil Hannam captured the waterspout spiralling over the small village of Thorpeness CREDIT: PHIL HANNAM /GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY
Sky-spotters were stunned to capture photos of a dramatic waterspout in stormy skies over Suffolk.
Phil Hannam, a chef, was taking a break from the kitchen when he saw the intense vortex spiralling over the small village of Thorpeness.
Reinhard Olbrich also took a remarkable picture of the funnel-shaped cloud from a pub garden in the village on Saturday evening.
Although witnesses believed they had seen a tornado it was actually a waterspout, which is a type of funnel cloud that occurs over a body of water.
Mr Hannam and his colleagues at The Kitchen at Thorpeness restaurant were stunned to see it circling over their village, which is near the coast.
Restaurant manager Amy Youngs said: “It was muggy and stormy yesterday and we had all sorts of weather, but we’ve never seen a tornado over Suffolk before.
“We were stunned when Phil came back and showed us the photo on his mobile phone.”
The funnel cloud turned heads in the small village of Thorpeness
The funnel cloud turned heads in the small village of Thorpeness CREDIT: REINHARD OLBRICH/GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air which rotates while in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cloud.
They are often referred to as twisters and often travel a few miles before dissipating. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour, but often have wind speeds of less than 110 miles per hour.
Courtesy of


Subject To Change

Depth: 34 km

Distances: 236 km S of Vancouver, Canada / pop: 1,837,969 / local time: 11:53:28.1 2016-07-31
63 km W of Olympia, United States / pop: 46,478 / local time: 11:53:28.1 2016-07-31
21 km N of Montesano, United States / pop: 3,976 / local time: 11:53:28.1 2016-07-31

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Subject To Change

Depth: 3 km

Distances: 127 km E of Tijuana, Mexico / pop: 1,376,457 / local time: 09:21:05.8 2016-07-31
44 km NW of Mexicali, Mexico / pop: 597,099 / local time: 09:21:05.8 2016-07-31
26 km NW of El Centro, United States / pop: 42,598 / local time: 09:21:05.8 2016-07-31
16 km SW of Westmorland, United States / pop: 2,225 / local time: 09:21:05.8 2016-07-31

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Subject To Change

Depth: 3 km

Distances: 63 km N of Lisbon, Portugal / pop: 517,802 / local time: 16:41:25.0 2016-07-31
32 km W of Santarém, Portugal / pop: 29,385 / local time: 16:41:25.0 2016-07-31
9 km E of Bombarral, Portugal / pop: 5,852 / local time: 16:41:25.0 2016-07-31

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