Today’s the Day for BL86 Flying Past Earth! And you can See it!

Today was the flyby of the big Asteroid 2004 BL86.  It can be seen tonight in the sky but you will need a darn good pair of binoculars or a telescope.   Here’s where to find it: Scientists have also revealed some new information about it, including updating its size from 550m down to a more paltry 300m, which is still pretty big! Also, it has a moon! Crazy right? Enjoy yet another close shave by a moderately sized Space rock that could have had a devastating impact.

Dawn is Approaching Ceres

…and not the ‘dawn’ we refer to when watching a sunrise.  Dawn is a NASA spacecraft that was launched in 2007 with the goal of exploring the asteroid belt by observing its largest and most interesting objects up close.  The two largest asteroids, Vesta and Ceres, have been the largest mission goals of Dawn as it has journeyed through the belt. From July 2011 to September 2012, Dawn was in orbit around the 525 Km wide Vesta, snapping amazing photos and studying the giant in detail. Since it’s departure from Vesta in September 2012, the craft has been on route...

Another Big Asteroid will Fly Past Earth: Why does this keep Happening?

It seems that in recent years, asteroids have been flying past Earth with increasing frequency.  Does it mean that more asteroids are coming around? Is it the beginning of the end? Will one of them hit us soon and doom us all? Probably not, but there’s always a chance. It’s almost certain that the reason we’ve been able to find so many new asteroids, and especially near-Earth asteroids, is because of the technology increase in Astronomy the past few years.  New telescopes and tracking methods exist with the sole purpose of finding near-Earth asteroids, somewhat of an early warning system...

Asteroid Belt vs. Kuiper Belt vs. Oort Cloud

Ever wondered the difference? The Asteroid Belt, shown above, consists of hundreds of thousands of rocks, with all kinds of different shapes, ranging in size from the Dwarf Planet Ceres at 950 Km in Diameter, down to small bits the size of dust particles.  It lies between Mars and Jupiter. The Kuiper Belt (pronounced Kai-per) consists of Icy rocks, and it a major source of short-period Comets in the Solar system.  Extending beyond the planet Neptune, Pluto was discovered to be one of the largest objects in the belt. The mysterious Oort cloud is a collection of Comets, thought to...

Rosetta Sheds New Light on Origin of Earth’s Oceans

One of the most important science goals of the Rosetta mission is to determine the conditions in the early solar system, as well as the element abundance and climate that led to the development of life on Earth. By studying a comet that has been isolated in Space for 4.5 Billion years, we can learn about the formation of the Solar System and the origin of the raw materials for life on Earth.  The Earth was thought to be so warm when it formed that any water would have evaporated away into space.  If so, where did our vast oceans come...

DNA Survives a Trip into Earth’s Atmosphere

Panspermia. Look it up.  It sounds more like science fiction than science fact, but imagine the implications.  It is the idea that life is everywhere, and is seeded throughout the universe by comets, asteroids, meteors, rogue planets, and even spacecraft, by way of unintended contamination of microbes.  It could also explain why there is life on Earth. Because we still know so little about the Universe around us, panspermia is considered a plausible scenario.  To test parts of this theory, a team from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Anatomy used small pipettes to actually place double stranded DNA on the outside of...

Meteorites make rare Diamonds!

When a large meteorite collides with the Earth, it can be travelling upwards of 40 Kilometres per second.  This collision releases a huge amount of energy, which can vaporize rocks and create interesting and unique geological structures. For decades, scientists have been debating the existence of a rare type of crystal called Lonsdaleite, which is associated with impacts.  Strange small crystals were discovered in Arizona in the 1950s around an ancient impact crater called ‘Canyon Diablo.’  It led some scientists to believe that the mineral had mechanical properties similar to diamond, but that it was structurally superior. If it existed in a pure form...

Here’s what the Surface of the (2nd) Largest Asteroid Looks like

Vesta is the 2nd-largest Asteroid in the well known asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.  525 Km in diameter, it is very big for an asteroid.  If it was much bigger we would call it a dwarf planet. The Dawn Spacecraft, launched in 2007, stopped by Vesta in 2011 and stuck with it until 2012 as it orbited the sun.  We are still seeing the results of that rendezvous, and just recently NASA released a complete map of the surface features of Vesta. It’s amazing to see so many interesting surface features on such a small world.  Geologic...