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NASA warns of 2nd stadium-sized space rock headed Earth’s way as it delays asteroid hunter mission to 2022


NASA is warning of the second ‘stadium-sized’ asteroid headed towards the Earth in as many weeks, shortly after announcing the postponement of its critical planetary defense mission to 2022.

On February 27, the asteroid 2021 DE, with a diameter roughly the same size as the Arc de Triomphe (49m), will buzz the Earth at a distance of 1.6 million kilometers (mn km), followed shortly afterwards on February 28 by the 20-meter 2021 DM at a distance of 4.8 mn km.

Upping the ante significantly the following day, March 1, will be the Statue of Liberty-sized (91m) space rock 2011 DW, which will shoot past at a distance of 5.3 mn km.

Then on March 2 comes the piece de resistance, the second asteroid in two weeks which NASA describes as ‘stadium-size’: 1999 RM45, with a diameter of 396m – roughly 1.1 times the height of the Empire State building, 1.75 times that of the Golden Gate Bridge, or 0.5 times the size of the Burj Khalifa – will pay the Earth a passing visit at a safe distance of 2.6 mn km.

None of the aforementioned asteroids pose a particular threat to the planet, according to current understanding of their trajectories, but increasing reports about stadium-sized asteroids entering the Earth’s vicinity merely heighten fears of a potential impact.

The US space agency announced that its long-anticipated Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) planetary defense mission is now scheduled to launch in 2022, given that this year’s primary launch window from July 21 to August 24 is no longer viable.

According to a NASA statement, the mission was postponed due to technical issues with two major components of the spacecraft, as well as supply chain issues caused partly by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Alas, one of the Earth’s most proactive missions to tackle the ever-present danger of asteroid annihilation will now take place some time during its backup window, which opens on November 24 and runs to February 15, 2022.

“At NASA, mission success and safety are of the utmost importance, and after a careful risk assessment, it became clear DART could not feasibly and safely launch within the primary launch window,” NASA Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement.

The DART spacecraft should eventually launch on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from a US Air Force base in California. Its target is a binary asteroid system consisting of the 775-meter wide Didymos and 165-meter Dimorphos.

The DART mission is aiming to slam into Dimorphos and knock it off course, thereby proving the viability of deflecting asteroids as a primary planetary defense technique.

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Meteor exploded so brightly it triggered doorbell cams across Northern England, UK

Residents in northern England and Scotland were treated to a spectacular celestial display this week when a suspected bolide exploded as it struck the Earth’s atmosphere.

The night skies over northern England exploded into light for a brief second courtesy of the huge flash, with residents marvelling at what it might be, anything from a military test to a crashing plane.

Thankfully, several people received alerts of suspicious activity on their doorbell cameras, only to discover they had, in fact, managed to record the ethereal, extraterrestrial effulgence.

I’ve seen meteors before but this one I was stunned by the colour, the length of the fireball and the length of time it was in the sky,” said one stunned resident.

Reports streamed in to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) and the UK Meteor Network from all over the northern UK about the celestial pyrotechnics display, which occurred at roughly 21:20 local time.

Due to the velocity at which they strike the Earth’s atmosphere, fragments larger than one millimetre have the capability to produce a bright flash as they streak through the heavens above,” the IMO says, in describing these bolides.

The hundreds of people across Northumberland who witnessed the event were perfectly positioned as it turns out the area holds Dark Sky Park status, meaning it has a particularly good view of such stunning spectacles, rivalled only by places like Death Valley and Big Bend Dark Sky Parks in the US.

These areas are protected for their exceptional night-time skies so they can be used in astronomical, scientific and educational research.

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Rocky start: 2021 will begin with unwelcome, 220-meter wide asteroid visitor, NASA warns


As nations across the globe say ‘good riddance’ to 2020, NASA has warned that a monstrous 220-meter asteroid is headed Earth’s way early in the new year.

Before that, this year’s final asteroid, 2020 YB4, measuring just 36 meters in diameter or roughly half the wingspan of a 747, passed by the Earth shortly after 6am UTC at a distance of 6.1 million kilometers. That means, in terms of the threat posed by space rocks at least, the planet made it out of 2020 somewhat intact.

However, in the first days of January, three additional, small Near Earth Objects (NEOs) will grace the Earth with their presence, for a brief time.

Just two days into 2021, the 15-meter asteroid 2019 YB4 will fly by at a safe distance of 6.4 million kilometers. The very next day, it will be followed up by two more chunks of cosmic debris in the form of the 15-meter 2020 YA1 and the 21-meter 2020 YP4, which will pass by at 1.5 and 2.1 million kilometers respectively.

But the biggie will come on January 3, as the relatively mountainous 2003 AF23, measuring an impressive 220m in diameter or about as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge is tall, will shoot past at 6.9 million kilometers.

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Asteroid the size of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa heading towards Earth at 90,000kph

As a battered and beleaguered planet approaches the finish line of 2020, the universe appears to be playing a dark joke on humanity by sending five asteroids in two days, with a 2,700ft space rock to follow just days later.

The behemoth dubbed 2000 WO107, estimated to measure up to 0.51km in diameter, or roughly the height of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, will be paying Earth a visit (cosmically speaking) at 10.09am GMT (5.09am ET) on Sunday, November 29.

The visitor won’t be sticking around for long as, despite its enormous size, it is traveling at a whopping 25.07km per second – or roughly the equivalent of 90,000kph. For reference, the average bullet travels at around 4,500kph. It also won’t be visible to most Earthlings as it is set for what NASA deems a “close flyby” at a paltry 0.02876 Astronomical Units (AU) from Earth – or 2,673,409 miles.

NASA defines a Near Earth Object (NEO) as any asteroid or comet coming within 1.3 AU of Earth.

In the meantime, there will be plenty of activity in our cosmic backyard, with five asteroids due in the area on Monday and Tuesday alone.

On Monday three space rocks, 2020 WN (9.5m in diameter), 2020 VW2 (14m) and 2020 WC (10m) will shoot past Earth at 1.6 million kilometers, seven million kilometers, and 1.6 million kilometers respectively.

The average distance between Earth and the Moon is about 385,000km but NASA considers all objects within a 7.5 million-kilometer range (or 19.5 times the distance to the Moon) to be worthy of monitoring, just in case any succumb to a sudden course correction.

Tuesday will see the 47-meter 2017 WJ16 and 31-meter 2020 TJ8 pass the planet at two million kilometers and 6.4 million kilometers, before the next round of space rocks buzzes our planetary defenses.

NASA and other space agencies around the globe keep a watchful eye 24/7 but there’s a lot of sky to cover, so sometimes humanity misses these close flybys, as was the case with a new record-holding close flyby which took place this month.

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Three 30m asteroids headed this way, but ‘planet-killer’ Bennu may be hollow & spinning itself to DEATH


After avoiding catastrophe on election day in the US, in the form of asteroid 2018 VP1 of course, NASA is now warning of another three space rocks headed this way, while also suggesting the ‘planet-killer’ Bennu may be hollow.

As 2020 draws to a close, the threat from outer space remains as clear as ever, with three asteroids over 30 meters in diameter traveling Earth’s way this week alone, starting on November 10 with a double-header.

Measuring roughly half the size of the Statue of Liberty (46m), asteroid 2020 UN3 will pass the planet at a safe distance of 4.4 million kilometers. Not long after, and almost double the size, the 72-meter 2020 UL3, will shoot past at 5.8 million kilometers.

Lest anyone get too comfortable, however, on November 12, asteroid 2020 VC, measuring 34 meters in diameter or roughly half the wingspan of a 747 jet, is set to buzz the planet at a distance of 5.2 million kilometers.

Honorable mention goes to 2018 VS4, 23 meters in diameter (roughly half as tall as the Arc de Triomphe) and the 27-meter 2020 VC1 (half the Leaning Tower of Pisa), both of which will make a flyby of Earth this week but are not expected to pose any threat to humanity.

Meanwhile, data from NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft, which recently pillaged the potential planet-killer asteroid Bennu for some of its dust, indicates this particular headline-stealing space rock may, in fact, be hollow.

Furthermore, not only is Bennu likely hollow, but it is also spinning rapidly, driving material to its surface and potentially tearing itself apart in the process.

Still some 321,868,800km away, Bennu has a one-in-2,700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2199.

In a recent study, University of Colorado researchers managed to calculate its gravity – and thus its mass – by tracking the motion of rocks flung outwards by the asteroid before they crashed back down on its surface. The findings lead the boffins to suspect that Bennu has an empty core.

“It’s as if there is a void at its center, within which you could fit a couple of football fields,” Daniel Scheeres, who led the research, explained.

The latest data from the asteroid indicates that it completes one rotation every four hours, but that its rate of spin is increasing.

“You could imagine maybe in a million years or less, the whole thing flying apart,” Scheeres said.

The NASA team behind the incredible mission also found that Bennu’s rock was surprisingly soft, after the Osiris-Rex probe blasted the surface with a burst of nitrogen gas, rustling up much more material than expected, catching everyone off guard.

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Huge Fireball Meteor over Alaska Sets off Volcano Warning System 360 Miles Away

Fireball Alert

A huge “fireball” meteor that lit up skies across west Alaska also set off newly installed sensors for detecting volcanic activity, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has said.

The event, which took place on October 15, triggered six of the sensors’ alarms at a new monitoring station on the Kenai Peninsula. The sensors are built to detect low-frequency sound waves in the atmosphere during volcanic activity, but in this case they picked up waves coming from the meteor that had streaked across the sky around 360 miles away.

In a Facebook post, the USGS said the meteor also triggered an alarm at Mount Spurr—a large, active volcano that sits around 80 miles from Anchorage that last erupted in 1992. However, as other monitoring systems also picked up on the waves, “it quickly became clear that this was not activity at Mount Spur,” the post said.

Scientists with the USGS Alaska Volcano Observatory worked with researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute to investigate the cause. They found the meteor passed over Alaska around 40 miles from the Athabaskan community of Kaltag, which sits on the Yukon River.

In a blog post for the American Geophysical Union, UAF science writer Ned Rozell said witnesses reported the fireball in regions hundreds of miles apart. One resident of Ruby described it as an “enormous ball of light in the sky,” saying it was moving north to south. Another resident said it looked like “fireworks” that split into four dots.

David Fee, head of the infrasound program at UAF’s Geophysical Institute and researcher with the AVO, said he believes the meteor exploded somewhere east of Kaltag. “I typically don’t work on meteors, but they are often really nice infrasound sources to help better understand the performance of our networks, and I think provide valuable information on meteors and bolides themselves,” he said.

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A Meteorite – Asteroid Passed Near Earth at Record Speed


A meteorite called 2020 UF3 passed at record speed from a point that could be considered quite close to our planet on October 22. The asteroid detected by the Virtual Telescope Project has passed only 42 thousand kilometers. This distance roughly corresponds to 11% of the distance between the Earth and the moon.

According to NASA reports, the speed of the asteroid was also very high. The 2020 UF3 was traveling at 22 kilometers per second. In other words, its speed was 79 thousand kilometers per hour. If the asteroid was orbiting our planet at full speed, it could have made almost 2 rotations per hour.

The asteroid also managed to become the fastest meteorite ever observed by this astronomy group, according to the Virtual Telescope Project. The team published an article on the subject on their website.

“The near-Earth asteroid 2020 UF3 has safely come very close to our planet, to a minimum distance of 42000 kilometers from Earth. It is about 11% of the average moon distance ”.

An image of the meteorite was also captured in the project. This image is not very clear. The object, which can be viewed for only 3 seconds by the Elena robotics unit, is a bit blurry and there are slight distortions in the image. Yet enough to witness the passage of the asteroid.

Despite being so close to Earth, the meteorite’s discovery took place only on October 21st. The reason for this is that the celestial body is a relatively small meteorite between 13 and 57 meters tall. The Lemmon Mountain research team discovered the asteroid.

From time to time, such small structures can go around our planet. In fact, the Sun and Jupiter greatly prevent such structures from hitting our planet thanks to their enormous gravitational field.

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