Along with two satellites orbiting Earth above WISE
Space news (November 09, 2015) – 12,000 light-years from Earth in the Auriga constellation –
A part of the universe full of young, hot stars only a million years old, the Tadpole nebula is one of the best and closest places to study the formation of new stars. At a distance of 12,000 light-years from Sol in the constellation of Auriga, the two tadpole-shaped pillars that give this region of space its name contain numerous new stars with as much as ten times the mass of our sun. Called Sim 129 and 130, the chaotic areas near the heads of these pillars are believed to harbor new stars and protostars in the process of forming.
The mosaic of images above taken by NASA’s WISE spacecraft showcases the Tadpole nebula, plus two slow moving satellites orbiting above WISE, and two slower moving asteroids traveling through the solar system.
Asteroid 1719 left a line of yellow-green tracks running across the image and pictured in the boxes near the center. Discovered in 1950, this ancient wanderer orbits in the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, and takes 4.3 years to orbit Sol.
Asteroid 1992 UZ5 is also viewed traveling across the image and is highlighted in the boxes displayed at the upper left. Little data has been gathered on this ancient rock from the dawn of the solar system. Astronomers expect to know more about this visitor from the past in the years ahead.
Highlighted in the off-center ovals near the center top and bottom right of the image are two satellites caught moving in front of WISE that appear as faint green trails.
You can learn more about asteroids from the dawn of the solar system here.
One 300-500 meter asteroid has enough resources to make it financially feasible to mine for ore and water
Space news ( September 02, 2015) – Finding and moving an asteroid of this size with the right composition safely to the right location for mining is the difficult part
Planetary Resources Inc. is currently doing a survey of potential asteroids with the right composition close enough to make mining safely feasible. Potential asteroids are all closer to Earth than Main Belt asteroids, which are much more difficult to reach and mine for ore and water. Mining a Main Belt asteroid is a project for the future and one better done from a location closer to the target area.
At this point, Planetary Resources is gathering together the data collected by scientists during the last two decades on over 11,000 potential asteroids, along with nearly a million possible targets located in the Main Belt. Using this data they have developed a list of potential asteroidsthey’re currently following and evaluating for further prospecting.
Prospecting potential asteroids using specifically designed spacecraft
In Planetary Resources factory in Redmond, WA engineers and scientists are developing advanced spacecraft capable of traveling to and prospecting potential asteroids. Called Arkyd rendezvous prospectors, these low-cost spacecraft are equipped with hyperspectral and infrared sensors, which will allow scientists to gather data on the composition of potential asteroids. They’ll also analyze data collected and send it back to Earth to be evaluated by geologists for mining feasibility.
Planetary Resources engineers are currently testing this space prospecting technology in low-Earth orbit. The Arkyd 3R deployed from the International Space Station during July. Engineers and scientists are presently testing systems and technologies designed for use in future Arkyd spacecraft.
Later in 2015, Planetary Resources is planning on launching Arkyd 6 (A6), a slightly larger and more robust spacecraft carrying an infrared imaging sensor geologists want to use to look at asteroids for water and water-bearing minerals. The data they collect using their Arkyd 3R and A6 spacecraft will be used to define a mission profile for the feasible mining of a potential asteroid in the near future.
For more information on Planetary Resources and plans to mine an asteroid visit here.
Just add water, gasses, and simple organic molecules
Space news (July 27, 2015) – the search for life beyond Earth – a simple recipe for extraterrestrial life –
NASA scientists studying the origins of organic compounds important to the development of life on Earth think they’re on the trail of a cosmic “Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life”. Recent experiments conducted by astrobiologists working at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland indicate asteroids and meteorites could have been the source of complex organic compounds essential to the evolution of life on Earth. Essential organic compounds they have been able to reproduce in laboratory experiments from simpler organic compounds, water, and gasses in simulations of the space environments of meteorites and asteroids.
“We found that the types of organic compounds in our laboratory-produced ices match very well to what is found in meteorites,” said Karen Smith of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This result suggests that these important organic compounds in meteorites may have originated from simple molecular ices in space. This type of chemistry may also be relevant for comets, which contain large amounts of water and carbon dioxide ices. These experiments show that vitamin B3 and other complex organic compounds could be made in space and it is plausible that meteorite and comet impacts could have added an extraterrestrial component to the supply of vitamin B3 on ancient Earth.”
“This work is part of a broad research program in the field of Astrobiology at NASA Goddard. We are working to understand the origins of biologically important molecules and how they came to exist throughout the Solar System and on Earth. The experiments performed in our laboratory demonstrate an important possible connection between the complex organic molecules formed in cold interstellar space and those we find in meteorites.”
The Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life
Deep within immense clouds of gas and dust created by exploding stars (supernovae) and the winds of red giant stars coming to the end of their days are countless dust grains. Many of these dust grains will end up part of asteroids and meteorites like the millions of bodies in the Main Asteroid Belt, Kuiper Belt, and Oort Cloud. Asteroids and meteorites that bombarded the Earth from space during the formation of the planets and Solar System.
NASA space scientists were able to reproduce a “Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life” using an aluminum plate cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 253 Celsius) as the cold surface of an interstellar dust grain carried by an asteroid or meteorite heading to Earth 4.5 billion years ago. The experiments were conducted in a vacuum chamber used to replicate conditions in space to which they added gasses containing water, carbon dioxide, and the simple organic compound pyridine. Bombarding the cold surface with high energy protons from a particle accelerator to simulate cosmic radiation and other radiation found in space produced more complex organic compounds like vitamin B3.
To learn more about the European Space Agency and its work with the Rosetta mission go here.
To learn more about NASA’s space mission and the search for life beyond Earth visit here.
Learn more about the Goddard Space Flight Center here.
Space news (astronomy leaders of tomorrow: The International Astronomical Search Campaign)
An asteroid is a piece of solid rock with an irregular body ranging in size between 500 meters and hundreds of kilometers. The majority of these bodies can be found in the main asteroid belt, a region of space between Mars and Jupiter. Pieces of rocky material left over from the formation of the solar system over 4.6 billion years ago, NASA scientists estimate there are as many as 40,000 asteroids contained within this main asteroid belt, with a combined mass less than the Moon. Confirming the identity and calculating the orbit of the asteroids contained within this belt is part of the space mission of NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).
The International Astronomical Search Campaign (IASC) is an educational outreach program created to allow high school and college students around the country to participate in identifying and calculating the orbit of every rocky body within the main asteroid belt. Originally created and developed by Patrick Miller of Hardin-Simmons University in the state of Texas, this program has helped tens of thousands of students in 250 schools and 25 countries on five continents learn more about astronomy.
Students participating in the program download images taken of an asteroid within the main asteroid belt in the last few hours by telescopes (24 and 32 inches) located in the Astronomical Institute in Illinois. Students must determine the identity and calculate the three-dimensional orbit of an asteroid using Astrometrica, a software package users need to download directly from the IASC website, within a three-day window.
The telescopes take three images of an asteroid at six-minute intervals, which means it would have moved around five pixels in relation to distant background stars in each image. Astrometrica highlights objects in each image fitting these criteria by putting a red circle around them.
In order to determine an object is an asteroid, students must sort through objects that have moved in the images, and ones that are static. They do this by taking a look at the fit of the point spread function, the signal-to-noise ratio, and any change in the size of an object in the images. If an object has moved in a relatively straight line, stayed about the same size, has a signal-to-noise ratio greater than five, and is approximately round in shape, then it’s probably an asteroid.
Join the human journey to the beginning of space and time today!
A typical International Astronomical Search Campaign lasts about 45 days, during which new asteroids are often discovered, identified, and their orbits determined. This is your chance to become an astronomy leader of tomorrow, by participating in the International Astronomical Search Campaign, and WISE’s mission to identify and calculate the orbit of every rocky body in the main asteroid belt.
You can find more information and news on the space mission of NASA’s WISE spacecraft here.
You can find more on the current campaigns of the International Astronomical Search Campaign here.
Schools desiring to take part in the International Astronomical Search Campaign contact the IASC Director, Dr. J. Patrick Miller by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Locating asteroids traveling through the solar system
Collisions in space are actually rare events
Astronomy News – Locating smaller celestial objects in the night sky is harder and time-consuming, but with a little patience and perception all star-gazers, both amateur and professional, can journey to a nearby asteroid traveling through the solar system to view these smaller travelers through time and space.
How do astronomers locate small and distant celestial bodies traveling through the darkness of the solar system at speeds beyond human experience? We’ll use the story of asteroid Hebe 6 to illustrate the methods and techniques professional astronomers and even amateur astronomers can use to find asteroids in the darkness of space and time.
Astronomers are always looking for collisions
In the solar system’s distant past, two asteroids traveling through the inner solar system collided in an explosion resulting in the formation of a huge cloud of floating debris. Fast forward to present time, these same pieces of space debris came falling to Earth one by one as meteorites. Scientists collecting the remains of these meteorites were able to follow the facts collected from their studies of these meteorites back to the source of the debris, Hebe 6.
Surprisingly, astronomers believe about 40 percent of the meteorites falling to Earth, share this same story of genesis from Hebe 6, during a collision with another unknown object in the darkness of the solar system in the distant past.
Hebe 6 appears to have survived the collision, and there haven’t been any estimates of the volume of debris comprising the dust cloud resulting from this distant collision in space and time, so scientists have no real way of determining the original size of Hebe 6, so far. Hebe 6 still spans at least 120 miles and shines at 8th magnitude, so using your time-machine-to-the-stars you should be able to view Hebe 6. Travel to your favorite dark sky spot for this adventure, you’ll need to point your viewer at 2nd magnitude star Beta Ceti. You’ll find Beta Ceti southeast of Jupiter in October’s southern night sky, just star-hop westward to 7 Ceti and then jump 2 degrees south to find Hebe 6. How will you know you have located Hebe 6 and not a background star? To make sure of the identity of Hebe 6, note the positions of the objects closest to your target, and then return in a couple of hours. Recheck the positions of the objects you recorded, if you’re found Hebe 6, your target will have moved relative to the objects you have noted close by in the night sky.
Astronomers are constantly rethinking old theories and designing new ones to fit new ideas
Astronomy News – astrophysics: planets; the number and type of planets
Count the planets in the solar system and make an assessment of their various sizes and distances from Sol and the Earth as you leave on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. You’ll find that the line between planet and smaller planetoids, like asteroids and meteorites, has yet to be firmly set in place in the astronomy books, and in the universe.
We were all taught during our school indoctrination of nine planets circling Sol at varying distances. Mercury and Venus lie closest to Sol, with the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn residing at greater distances from Sol, while Uranus, Neptune, and disputed Pluto orbit at the greatest distance on average as compared to the other planets. Millions of school and reference books, thousands of articles, and countless periodicals also include references to Pluto being officially recognized as the ninth planet in the solar system. The publishers of these publications will be calling for a rewrite of all of this material and the history books will have to be changed if some astronomers and space scientists have their way.
Planet X came spinning into the view of Caltech astronomer Michael Brown on July 29, 2005 and changed the way astronomers and star gazers think about Pluto and the definition of a planet. An icy, Kuiper Belt resident Michael named after Xena the warrior goddess of the famed television series, at least until the International Astronomical Union speaks on this matter, Planet x orbits Sol at a distance nearly twice as great as Pluto’s. Planet X’s 560-year orbit is also inclined to the ecliptic by nearly twice as much as Pluto’s, which results in Planet X being closer to Sol than Pluto during its orbit, at times.
Planet X is still a bit of an enigma to astronomers
How much bigger is Planet X than Pluto? Astronomers have measured the brightness and distance of Planet X from Sol, as compared to objects of known brightness in the solar system. Based on their data and calculations, astronomers believe Planet X to be bigger than Pluto, but just how much bigger has yet to be firmly etched in stone by the various astronomical societies and agencies tasked with determining if Planet X is indeed bigger than Pluto and by how much. This fuzzy-news has pushed Pluto into tenth place in the nine planet race in the solar system and into second place in the size ranking of the objects in the Kuiper Belt and astronomers, and star gazers have only searched a small percentage of the Kuiper Belt for objects bigger than Pluto.
Will bigger objects than Planet X be discovered in the Kuiper Belt or somewhere on the outer fringes of the solar system? The first Kuiper Belt objects were viewed by star gazers and astronomers in the early 1990s, but since this time, larger and larger objects have been located in the Kuiper Belt. In 2002, an object half the size of Pluto was discovered floating in the Kuiper Belt, which astronomers named Quaoar. Just two years later, 2004DW and Sedna were discovered, each respectively two-thirds and three-quarters the size of Pluto. It wouldn’t be surprising, therefore, if star gazers and astronomers were to find an even larger object floating in the Kuiper Belt than Planet X at some point in the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”.
The definition of a planet has changed over the years
What do you think a little asteroid dust could tell us about the universe?
Astronomy gurus watched as it came back to Earth
Astronomy News – The return capsule of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s asteroid-hunting Hayabusa spacecraft splashed down safely near Australia on June 13. This marks the return of a space traveller that was launched in 2003 in order to journey to the small near-Earth asteroid 25143 Itokawa to bring back a sample of the asteroid’s surface. Hayabusa has been designed and engineered to fire a projectile into the surface of asteroid 25143 Itokawa and hopefully kick up dust that can be collected by Hayabusa’s onboard collection container. The only problem is space scientists don’t know yet if Hayabusa was able to accomplish its mission, but they remain hopeful the projectile was able to fire and the collection container store some dust for them to study. Any dust they find could still be Earth dust that somehow entered the collection container, so any material they find in the collection container will still have to be verified to be true asteroid dust.
Hayabusa’s mission was a success, even if the projectile didn’t fire and the collection container didn’t collect any dust because Japanese space scientists were able to conduct several other groundbreaking experiments. Stay tuned to “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” in the days and weeks ahead in the century of the environment for new developments on this front.
Astronomy will be serious business during the next century