A space rock large enough to do damage gives us a near miss just two days after being discovered.
An asteroid roughly the size of a 10-story building gave Earth a particularly close pass Monday morning.
Asteroid 2017 AG13 came within half the distance from Earth to the moon as it buzzed by early Monday morning at 4:47 a.m. PT. The fly-by happened shortly after scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey first discovered the space rock on Saturday.
As you can see in the GIF below, the asteroid looks to just barely miss us as it passes. In the cosmic sense, it really was a close shave. In real terms, Earth had well over a 100,000-mile (161,000 kilometer) buffer of distance.
2017 AG13 isn’t so big it would have meant an extinction-level event had it been a direct hit. But if a good size chunk of it made it through Earth’s upper atmosphere near a populated area, there might have been damage like we saw in 2013 when a bolide collided with the atmosphere over the Russian city Chelyabinsk. In that event, a fireball streaked over the city, releasing 500 kilotons of energy as it ran up against some serious resistance from Earth’s atmosphere and exploded, blowing out windows all over town in the process.
The asteroid is about 36 to 111 feet (11 to 34 meters) across, according to the Slooh Observatory, and moving very fast relative to Earth at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per second. That speed, coupled with 2017 AG13’s dim brightness level, made it difficult to spot with telescopes.
Various telescopes and sky surveys constantly scan Earth’s neighborhood and track nearby asteroids. Most pass by at a distance several times farther away than the moon is to us, so this was a particularly close buzz by a previously unknown object.
In the video below, Slooh Astronomer Eric Edelman breaks down some of the basics of the asteroid.
Repeating FRBs came from same location far beyond the Milky Way where 10 had previously been detected.
Six additional repeating fast radio bursts have been discovered coming the same unknown source in space. The FRBs came from the same region beyond the Milky Way where 10 bursts had previously been detected – and their discovery should give a greater insight into what caused them.
FRBs are radio signals from deep space that last just a few milliseconds. The first FRB was detected in 2001 and since then over a dozen have been found in telescope data. However, these all appeared to be one-off events, with no two bursts coming from the same location. This means follow-up observations were not possible, keeping their source a mystery.
Current theories as to their cause involve a cataclysmic event like a neutron star collapsing into a black hole or a supernova. Another option is they are coming from a young, highly magnetised, extragalactic neutron star.
In March, scientists announced the discovery of the first repeating FRBs. Ten bursts were recorded coming from the same direction as FRB 121102 – a spot in space far beyond the Milky Way.
Their findings, published in the journal Nature, showed the bursts had the same dispersion measurements as the original FRB, indicating the source must have survived whatever event produced the FRB in the first place. As a result, the bursts cannot be being produced by a one-off event.
Now a team led by Paul Scholz of McGill University has found six more FRBs coming from the same region of space as FRB 121102. The study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, said: “We report on radio and X-ray observations of the only known repeating Fast Radio Burst (FRB) source, FRB 121102. We have detected six additional radio bursts from this source: five with the Green Bank Telescope at 2 GHz, and one at 1.4 GHz with the Arecibo Observatory, for a total of 17 bursts from this source.”
FRBs observed with the Arecibo were found to be significantly longer than the intrinsic widths of those found with the Parkes telescope.
The team said their discovery shows that – at least for this source – FRBs cannot be coming from a cataclysmic event. What is causing them, however, remains unknown.
“Whether FRB 121102 is a unique object in the currently known sample of FRBs, or all FRBs are capable of repeating, its characterisation is extremely important to understanding fast extragalactic radio transients,” they said.
Japan will launch a cargo ship Friday bound for the International Space Station, carrying a ‘space junk’ collector that was made with the help of a fishnet company.
The vessel, dubbed “Kounotori” (stork in Japanese), is to blast off from the southern island of Tanegashima around 10:30 pm local time (1330 GMT) attached to an H-IIB rocket.
Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are experimenting with a tether to pull junk out of orbit around Earth, clearing up tonnes of space clutter including cast-off equipment from old satellites and pieces of rocket.
More than 50 years of human space exploration since the Soviet-launched Sputnik satellite in 1957 has produced this hazardous belt of orbiting debris.
There are estimated to be more than 100 million pieces in orbit, posing a growing threat to future space exploration, scientists say.
Researchers are using a so-called electrodynamic tether made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium.
The idea is that one end of the strip will be attached to debris which can damage working equipment—there are hundreds of collisions every year.
The electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the Earth’s magnetic field is expected to have a slowing effect on the space junk, which should, scientists say, pull it into a lower and lower orbit.
Eventually the detritus will enter the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up harmlessly long before it has a chance to crash to the planet’s surface.
JAXA worked on the project with Japanese fishnet manufacturer Nitto Seimo to develop the cord, which has been about 10 years in the making.
“The tether uses our fishnet plaiting technology, but it was really tough to intertwine the very thin materials,” company engineer Katsuya Suzuki told AFP.
“The length of the tether this time is 700 metre (2,300 feet), but eventually it’s going to need to be 5,000 to 10,000 metre-long to slow down the targeted space junk,” he added.
Previous experiments using a tether have been done in recent years.
A spokesman for the space agency said it hopes to put the junk collection system into more regular use by the middle of the next decade.
“If we are successful in this trial, the next step will be another test attaching one tip of the tether to a targeted object,” he added.
The cargo ship launched Friday is also carrying other materials for the ISS including batteries and drinking water for the astronauts living there.
One astronaut said the unexplained noises left him feeling very nervous and he couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary when he looked into the vast emptiness of space
China’s first astronaut says he heard mysterious knocks during his first flight in space – but no one has been able to explain the cause of them.
Astronaut Yang Liwei said the strange noises left him feeling very nervous and he looked out into the vast emptiness of space but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
Mr Yang, now a major general in China’s Air Force, said it sounded like someone was knocking the body of the spaceship, comparing the noise to that of a hammer hitting an iron bucket.
The 51-year-old’s unexplained experience has raised all kinds of theories, including aliens , and he said he has never heard the sound again since returning to earth.
In 2003 Mr Yang became the first person sent into space by the Chinese space programme, orbiting earth several times during a 21-hour flight.
He recalled the experience in a recent interview, telling Chinese media the mysterious knocking sounds occurred without rhyme or reason.
He said: “A non-causal situation I have met in space is a knock that appeared from time to time.
“It neither came from outside nor inside the spaceship, but sounded like someone is knocking the body of the spaceship just as knocking an iron bucket with a wooden hammer.
Mr Yang revealed he was very nervous when he heard the sounds and moved close to the spaceship’s porthole to investigate the cause.
He failed to see anything out of the ordinary.
When he returned to earth he explained the noises to officials with the space programme and tried to imitate it with instruments.
The sound has also been heard by Chinese astronauts who have since been blasted into space.
Mr Yang said: “Before entering space I have told them that the sound is a normal phenomenon, so there is no need to worry.”
Mysterious signals from 234 stars have been recorded by astronomers who believe that it could indicate the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence.
Ermanno Borra and Eric Trottier from Laval University in Canada conducted a study, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), report that the pulsing is similar to what a signal from an intelligent alien race might look like, if they were trying to make contact.
In their resulting study published in Solar and Stellar Astrophysics journal, the pair conclude that the peculiar signals they recorded could be from aliens trying to make contact with Earth.
The researchers came to this potential explanation based on a previous study by Borra which predicted the shape of an extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) signal. The 234 signals identified match this shape exactly.
The fact that only a small fraction – 234 out of 2.5 million – of the stars in our sun’s spectrum emitted this signal also matches the previous ETI hypothesis.
However the theory that these signals are the result of aliens is only one of a number of possibilities, according to the study, and they could in fact derive from any one of “several possibilities” such as “rotational transitions in molecules” or “rapid pulsations”.
So is this the discovery we’ve been waiting for to finally confirm we’re not alone in the universe? Not quite..
The authors admit that further work is needed to confirm this theory and are also considering the ‘unlikely’ scenario that the signals are due to highly peculiar chemical compositions in a small fraction of galactic halo stars.
Breakthrough Listen Initiative, a scientific and technological exploration program that includes Stephen Hawking and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on its board, has announced plans to research the findings further but says a breadth of independently verified proof is required to substantiate the claims.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” the group points out in a statement. “It is too early to unequivocally attribute these purported signals to the activities of extraterrestrial civilizations.”
“Internationally agreed-upon protocols for searches for evidence of advanced life beyond Earth (SETI) require candidates to be confirmed by independent groups using their own telescopes, and for all natural explanations to be exhausted before invoking extraterrestrial agents as an explanation,” they added.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered safe mode Tuesday just hours before a close approach to the giant planet.
The space agency revealed that its Jupiter orbiter temporarily entered into ‘safe mode’ after losing access to the main onboard computer and scientific instruments.
Scientists say that problems with the robotic spacecraft will not affect their planned studies of Jupiter, it will just slow things down.
NASA operated spacecraft seem to to be experiencing bad luck recently.
Earlier in the week the Schiaparelli probe was mysteriously lost on Mars.
Ancient Code reports:
“At the time safe mode was entered, the spacecraft was more than 13 hours from its closest approach to Jupiter,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
“We were still quite a ways from the planet’s more intense radiation belts and magnetic fields. The spacecraft is healthy, and we are working our standard recovery procedure.”
NASA is unsure what exactly caused the Juno spacecraft to enter safe mode. During a press conference, principal investigator Scott Bolton said the vehicle had “detected a condition that was not expected.”
Whatever happened, it made Juno turn off all its “unnecessary subsystems” — including its science instruments — and position itself toward the Sun to obtain as much power as possible.
The spacecraft entered safe mode after losing access to its computer. NASA revealed that mission specialists plan to reboot the spacecraft’s onboard computer in hopes of bringing the probe back.
High-speed data have been restored, and the spacecraft is carrying out flight software diagnosis. All instruments are off, and the gathering of scientific data scheduled for the second close flyby of Jupiter did not occur.
Strangely, this is the second failure for Juno in a week.
Las week NASA announced that mission control would delay changing the spacecraft’s orbit because two valves in Juno’s engines behaved anomalously.
So far, mission specialists have two massive problems to solve. The first –and perhaps most important one— is to figure out why the spacecraft enters safe mode, and why the engines didn’t work as expected.
Juno reached the Gas giant in July and is planned to study Jupiter for a period of 20 months.
According to statements by Scott Bolton, with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, Juno’s mission goals are NOT impacted by its orbit, because critical measurements are gathered every time the spacecraft flies near Jupiter.
“The worst-case scenario is I have to be patient and get the science slowly,” said Bolton to reporters during a webcast at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Pasadena, California.