Tag: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

What a show of fireworks this would be!

Asteroid 2015 TB145 will pass by Planet Earth – just!

Back in my old country, Halloween is not celebrated in the same style that it is here in America. The Brits tend to favour the evening of November 5th and Guy Fawkes Night. That evening, Bonfire Night, sees fireworks parties in many places.

nov5th

However, if one starts to think of the dimensions and distances of outer space then our planet is just being spared the firework show to beat all other shows.

I’m referring to Asteroid TB145, a huge asteroid, that will pass Earth at 310,000 miles (498,896 km) or 1.3 times the Earth-moon distance.

asteroid20151021

UPDATE OCTOBER 30, 2015. A newly found asteroid of notable size – known as asteroid 2015 TB145 – will safely pass Earth on October 31, 2015, according to clocks in North America. It should be visible moving in front of the stars, with the help of a telescope, tonight (October 30). It is the biggest known asteroid that will come this close to Earth until 2027. The asteroid – found as recently as October 10 – will fly past Earth at a safe distance, or about 1.3 times the moon’s distance. Closest approach to Earth will be October 31 at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 UTC). Translate to your time zone here.

Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said:

The trajectory of 2015 TB145 is well understood. At the point of closest approach, it will be no closer than about 300,000 miles – 480,000 kilometers or 1.3 lunar distances. Even though that is relatively close by celestial standards, it is expected to be fairly faint, so night-sky Earth observers would need at least a small telescope to view it.

So how big is this asteroid?

Scientists are continuing to estimate the size at 1,300 feet (400 meters) wide.

If the size is correct, the new found asteroid is 28 times bigger in diameter than the Chelyabinsk meteor that penetrated the atmosphere over Russia in February, 2013. An incoming asteroid’s potential to do damage on Earth depends on various factors, including its size, its angle of entry, and the point on Earth over which it enters the atmosphere. The shock wave from the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor broke windows and did other damage to some 7,200 buildings in six Russian cities. Some 1,500 people were injured seriously enough to seek medical treatment, mainly from broken glass from windows.

For those of you that want to catch a glimpse of TB145, then:

TB145at350amET0750UT10312015-e1446201004409

Asteroid position at 3:50 a.m. ET (0750 UTC) Point a Go To computerized telescope to HIP 24197 or SAO 94377) a naked-eye star with a magnitude of 5 in Orion. At 3:50 a.m. ET on October 31 (Saturday morning), the space rock passes close to this star. The asteroid will appear as a slowly moving ‘star’ passing very close to this star. By this time the asteroid should appear to move faster because it will be closer to Earth than earlier on the night of October 30. This illustration shows a half degree field of view (about the size of a full moon). A pair of double stars visible in this area should confirm you are pointing at the correct direction. Alternatively, you can point your telescope to these coordinates: RA 05h 11m 41.6s / DEC +16º 02′ 44.5″. Illustration by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium.

Full details and answers to most of your questions may be found here.

All I can say is I hope the number crunchers have got their sums right!

If not, then it’s goodnight from her and goodnight from me.

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It was nice knowing you all!

P.S. If you think this is all a bit far-fetched, then this video sent to me by Dan Gomez will bring you down to earth.

A very simple notion.

Our beautiful planet.

As is the way of things, two completely disconnected events rang out yesterday, as if in harmony.

The first was this stunning picture released by NASA.

A distant view of home!
A distant view of home!

The full description may be read here, but I have taken the liberty of republishing this extract:

Earth, which is 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away in this image, appears as a blue dot at center right; the moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side. An arrow indicates their location in the annotated version. The other bright dots nearby are stars.

Now it doesn’t take too much imagination to put that minute speck of light, our Planet Earth, into its scale of meaning and importance vis-a-vis the universe.  You get my message, I’m sure.

The second event was a comment left by long-term reader and supporter of Learning from Dogs, Patrice Ayme.  The comment was on yesterday’s post, The meaning of wildness, and I quote:

Excellent article. Clearly primary temperate rain forest, nearly gone everywhere except in the American North west, has to be reintroduced.

Sheep ought not to be removed by man, but be removed by wolf, bear, felids. Cows would feel whole, having to fight off lions. And man’s sense of what nature means, vital to insure our survival, would blossom in this hour of need, when we have arisen as the planet’s gods. gods of evil, or gods of wisdom? That is the most important question.

“gods of evil, or gods of wisdom?”

To everybody I say this.  (And I am most certainly not excluding me.) When you next look at yourself in the mirror will you make a decision?  Will you be a god of evil or a god of wisdom?

Compelled by curiosity

Wonderful news and a fabulous achievement!

I’m writing this as 5.40 am on the 6th.  I let our ‘bedroom’ dogs out for their early-morning pee some 20 minutes ago and then jumped back in bed, turned on my Kindle and went to the BBC News website.  There I read,

Nasa’s Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars

The US space agency has just landed a huge new robot rover on Mars.

The one-tonne vehicle, known as Curiosity, was reported to have landed in a deep crater near the planet’s equator at 06:32 BST (05:32 GMT).

It will now embark on a mission of at least two years to look for evidence that Mars may once have supported life.

A signal confirming the rover was on the ground safely was relayed to Earth via Nasa’s Odyssey satellite, which is in orbit around the Red Planet.

The success was greeted with a roar of approval here at mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

As David Shukman, Science Editor of the BBC, wrote,

The day I watched Curiosity being built in a clean room at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena last year, the rover’s six wheels were lying on one work bench while the chassis stood on another and it was hard to believe the white-suited engineers could make sense of the maze of tubes and cabling.

But what they’ve created now stands on the red soil of Mars – and it’s in one piece. In the hallway of a JPL building we were shown a full-size replica. Walking around it made me realise something difficult to grasp from the pictures and video: this is a beast of a machine, a kind of cosmic Humvee with instruments instead of weapons.

Sometimes Nasa public relations can appear bragging. Today it feels justified. Curiosity is all set to discover something remarkable about our strangest neighbour.

Well said and people from all around the world will echo those sentiments.

When I read what Patrice wrote in my Setting the scene post not so many hours ago,

Well, OK, keeping my fingers, and even my arms, crossed here. Seems to me the “sky crane” is over-complex, and I was not reassured when one of the physicist-engineers boasted that they had run the landing millions of time on simulator. Yeap, OK, how many times for real in Earth’s gravity?
I don’t see why they could not have landed normally, LEM style. Especially as they have wheels and could have rolled away to find undistrubed land.
There are no back-ups…
OK, let’s hope I’m wrong to be suspicious…
PA

I instinctively agreed and hoped his worries were misplaced.  They were!  The Curiosity rover is down!  Good luck to the Rover and all those who made it possible.  Well done, the team!

Adjust your alarm clock!

A fascinating, perhaps even non-trivial, insight into that massive earthquake.

(Thanks to the website Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis for giving me a heads-up to this aspect of the ‘quake.)

MISH’s website pointed me to the website Space.com where there was this interesting reflection.

The massive earthquake that struck northeast Japan Friday (March 11) has shortened the length Earth’s day by a fraction and shifted how the planet’s mass is distributed.

A new analysis of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan has found that the intense temblor has accelerated Earth’s spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds, according to geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Gross refined his estimates of the Japan quake’s impact – which previously suggested a 1.6-microsecond shortening of the day – based on new data on how much the fault that triggered the earthquake slipped to redistribute the planet’s mass. A microsecond is a millionth of a second.

“By changing the distribution of the Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds,” Gross told SPACE.com in an e-mail. More refinements are possible as new information on the earthquake comes to light, he added.

The scenario is similar to that of a figure skater drawing her arms inward during a spin to turn faster on the ice. The closer the mass shift during an earthquake is to the equator, the more it will speed up the spinning Earth.

I was also interested to read in that article more confirmation that the earthquake moved Japan! (I had mentioned it in an earlier post on Learning from Dogs.)

The initial data suggests Friday’s earthquake moved Japan’s main island about 8 feet, according to Kenneth Hudnut of the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake also shifted Earth’s figure axis by about 6 1/2 inches (17 centimeters), Gross added.

The Earth’s figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis in space, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph (1,604 kph). The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth’s mass is balanced and the north-south axis by about 33 feet (10 meters).

“This shift in the position of the figure axis will cause the Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but will not cause a shift of the Earth’s axis in space – only external forces like the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon, and planets can do that,” Gross said.

So if you are the sort of person that likes to be precisely on time ….. take note!