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Asteroids can hit the Earth
Asteroids can hit the Earth.

Hayabusa's Return Probably Delayed

Dec 14, 2005 - JAXA engineers are working hard to recover their ailing Hayabusa spacecraft. The spacecraft has been out of contact since December 9th, after it turned suddenly from a fuel leak. Hayabusa was supposed to return to Earth in June 2007, but JAXA is concerned that it won't have enough fuel to make this date, so they'll probably push the return back to 2010. Unfortunately, they have no way of knowing if Hayabusa actually retrieved a sample from Itokawa during its close encounter.

Hayabusa Probably Didn't Get a Sample After All

Dec 9, 2005 - The Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft has moved approximately 550 km (340 miles) away from Asteroid Itokawa, beginning the journey back to Earth. Unfortunately, it appears that the spacecraft probably failed to pick up a sample from the asteroid. JAXA officials now think that a metal bullet designed to blast material off of Itokawa's surface probably failed to fire. Hayabusa is severely damaged, and will attempt to make the return journey to Earth, but managers aren't optimistic about its chances.

Hayabusa Successfully Collects an Asteroid Sample

Nov 29, 2005 - Japan's asteroid explorer, Hayabusa, successfully touched down onto the surface of asteroid Itokawa Saturday for the second time in a week, and the Japanese Agency announced that it's clutching a sample of material. The spacecraft will now begin the long journey back to Earth, and it all goes well, its sample capsule should land in the Australian outback in June 2007. This will be the first time material from an asteroid will ever be sampled back here on the Earth.

Upcoming Solutions for Near Earth Objects

Nov 28, 2005 - Telescopes from around the world are constantly scanning the skies searching for potential Earth-crossing asteroids. The majority if these objects pose little to no threat to us, but the potentially devastating space rocks are out there. The European Space Agency is working on a mission called Don Quixote which would attempt to shift the orbit of an asteroid to understand the mechanics of this kind of operation.

Hayabusa Landed on Itokawa Successfully

Nov 24, 2005 - Officials from the Japanese space agency (JAXA) announced yesterday that Hayabusa successfully touched down on asteroid Itokawa last weekend, bounced at least once, and spent 39 minutes "resting" on the surface. It then launched back up into space again. Unfortunately, it failed to drop equipment that would allow it to collect samples from the asteroid's surface. Hayabusa will head back to the potato-shaped asteroid on Friday and attempt another landing.

Japanese Probe Seems Lost in Space

Nov 14, 2005 - It appears that the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has lost contact with a small probe released from its mothership Hayabusa on Saturday. After its release, the Minerva probe failed to make contact with the asteroid Itokawa's surface, and controllers have no idea where it went. Hayabusa has been having problems with its positioning control system, so it's possible that it put Minerva on an incorrect vector to reach the asteroid's surface. Hayabusa is still scheduled to dip down and scoop some material off Hayabusa's surface to return to Earth for analysis.

ESA Picks an Asteroid to Move

Sep 26, 2005 - Instead of waiting for asteroids to slam into the Earth, the European Space Agency is working on a mission that will reach out and try to shift a space rock's orbit. The mission is called Don Quijote, and it will consist of two spacecraft: an orbiter and an impactor; similar to NASA's Deep Impact. The Sancho orbiter will rendezvous with a target asteroid and carefully calculate its orbit before and after the Hidalgo impactor slams into it. The ESA has chosen two candidate asteroids as potential targets, and will make a final decision in 2007.

Leftover Material Caused the Late Heavy Bombardment

Sep 16, 2005 - planets in the inner solar system suffered two devastating periods of asteroid bombardment. Scientists are fairly certain that the early period came from asteroids identical to the space rocks in the current main belt between Mars and Jupiter. The second period is a bit of a mystery, though. Scientists now think that there was a period at the end of planetary formation when the giant planets swept up leftover material and hurled much outwards, but also some towards the inner Solar System.

Hayabusa's Photo of Itokawa

Sep 15, 2005 - Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft arrived at Asteroid Itokawa earlier this week, and now it's sending back beautiful images. This image is a composite colour image of the asteroid taken on September 12 using red, green and blue filters. It's also possible to see its irregular shape. Hayabusa will eventually land on the surface of Itokawa, collect samples to be sent back to Earth. The probe's sample return capsule is expected to return to Earth in June 2007.

Asteroid Ceres Could Have Large Amounts of Water

Sep 8, 2005 - New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope indicate that the largest asteroid in the Solar System, Ceres, might have huge reserves of water ice under its surface. Ceres is approximately 580 miles (930 kilometers) across, and resides with many other asteroids in a belt of material between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres' crust shows evidence of water-bearing minerals. In fact, if Ceres is 25% water, it would have more fresh water than what we have here on Earth.

Asteroid Dust Could Influence the Weather

Aug 30, 2005 - Dust from asteroids entering our atmosphere could affect the weather more than scientists previously believed, according to a new study published this week in the journal Nature. An international team of researchers have studied the dust trail of an asteroid that burned up as it descended through the atmosphere above Antarctica. The 1,000 tonne asteroid formed a cloud of micron-sized particles large enough to influence the local weather in Antarctica.

Asteroid Close Call Will Be a Gain for Science

Aug 22, 2005 - Researchers from the University of Michigan are predicting that when asteroid 99942 Apophis (2004 MN4) swings past the Earth in 2029, it will get so close that astronomers should learn a tremendous amount about how the Earth's gravity can shift asteroid orbits. The researchers are hoping that a space agency will put instruments on the surface of the asteroid to measure seismic data, similar to the way seismologists use earthquakes to probe the Earth's interior.

Triple Asteroid System Discovered

Aug 11, 2005 - Astronomers from the US and France have discovered an asteroid with two small moons. The asteroid, 87 Sylvia, has been known since 1866, and known to have a single moon since 2001; the second moon was a complete surprise. The discovery was made using the European Southern Observatory's 8.2m Very Large Telescope in Chile while astronomers were trying to pin down motions of the first moon. These moons allowed astronomers to estimate the mass of 87 Sylvia, and they found it was only 20% higher than water. It's probably a loose pile of rubble held together by gravity, with mostly empty space.

Massive Asteroids Transformed the Earth's Surface

Aug 5, 2005 - At least three massive asteroids smashed into the Earth more than 3.2 billion years ago, and caused such destruction, they dramatically changed the structure and composition of the Earth's surface. This is according to new research from scientists at the Australian National University. The team uncovered evidence of major earthquakes, faulting, and volcanic eruptions that were so violent they dramatically changed the way the Earth's surface was forming. This happened during a period that the Moon also suffered heavy bombardment.

Why Are There Smooth Spots on Eros?

Jul 25, 2005 - By creating a detailed map of Asteroid 433 Eros, a researcher from Cornell University has helped answer questions about its interior. Even though Eros is largely pockmarked from thousands of meteor strikes, it does have a few puzzling smooth parts. The smooth parts appear to have been caused by seismic waves that passed through the asteroid's interior and shook the ground smooth after it was hit by large impacts. This means that Eros' interior is cohesive enough to transmit these seismic waves.

Earth Formed from Melted Asteroids

Jun 15, 2005 - Many of the Earth's volcanic rocks might have come from melted asteroids, according to researchers from the UK's Open University. The scientists have discovered that many early asteroids were quite volcanic and would have had large magma oceans. These asteroids would have become layered with lighter rock forming near the surface while denser rocks were deeper inside. The Earth probably grew from the accumulation of these melted asteroids.

Asteroid Will Zip Past the Earth in 2029

May 17, 2005 - Near the end of 2004, astronomers found a 320 metre (1000 feet) wide space rock that seemed to have the highest chance ever reported of actually striking the Earth - on April 13, 2029. Further observations have demonstrated that the asteroid will miss... phew. But when it streaks by in about 24 years, it will come so close - 30,000 km (18,600 miles) - that observers on the ground will easily see it with the unaided eye. It will get as bright as a 3rd magnitude star, and be visible from Africa, Europe and Asia.

Spitzer Sees an Alien Asteroid Belt

Apr 20, 2005 - NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous asteroid belt orbiting another star, containing 25 times as much material as the belt in our Solar System. If we had an asteroid belt this thick, it would light up the night sky in a bright band. Once confirmed, this will be the first asteroid belt found orbiting a star similar to our own Sun. Another possibility is that Spitzer is seeing a Pluto-sized comet which has been orbiting the star for many years and has left a bright trail of particles.

Torino Scale Revised

Apr 13, 2005 - Astronomers searching for potentially destructive Earth-crossing asteroids have revised the scale they use to communicate the risk of impact to the public. The Torino scale, which still goes from 0 (no chance of impact) to 10 (collision is certain) has the same classifications, but it's been rewritten to give the public a better idea of the risks associated with different space rocks. Instead of "meriting concern", lower risk objects now "merit attention by astronomers", explaining that astronomers will be making further observations.

Asteroid Created a Rain of Rock

Mar 24, 2005 - When a 10-km (6-mile), dinosaur-killing asteroid struck the Earth 65 million years ago, it released so much energy that it vaporized rock, which then fell like rain around the world. Scientists now think that these droplets of rock, called spherules, condensed out of a cloud of water vapour that surrounded the Earth shortly after the impact. They were able to trace the composition of the spherules back to the original Chicxulub impact crater, demonstrating that the material came from the Earth, and not the asteroid itself.

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