The name is terribly mundane, but the consequences of the close pass of asteroid 2014 JO25 last week are anything but. This peanut-shaped, 1400-yards, asteroid whizzed past Earth at a distance of about 1 million miles. At 4 time the Earth-Moon distance, that seems pretty safe, but in astronomy sizes that is a buzz call.
“Good news: Wednesday was the closest this asteroid has been in 400 years, and it won’t get this close again for at least 500 years. It’s not going to hit Earth, and if it were, we’d know it by now.
Somewhat disconcerting news: When the radar at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico spotted it, astronomers realized the space rock was larger than they had thought. Today’s estimate is about 0.8 miles wide.
Let us, for a moment, consider a scenario in which a 0.8-mile-wide asteroid strikes Earth. First, the magic number for total apocalypse is 60 miles. That’s how big an asteroid would need to be to wipe out human life. At six miles wide, even the asteroid that led to dinosaur extinction was much smaller than the Earth-obliterating scenario.
When physics tells me an asteroid this large would release 1031 Joules of kinetic energy, I take note. That’s how much energy the sun releases in a day. Think about that for a minute. But don’t dwell! Breathe easy.
Luckily, there’s nothing that large orbiting in our neighborhood. Instead, we’re plagued by articles like this that pop up every other month when little space rocks pass our planet 1 million miles away.”
show that the star is emits a lot Xrays, suggesting it is very young and will blow any atmosphere off any nearby planets within 5 billion years. So not such a great long term survival plan for humanity when our Sun destroys the Earth (also in about 5 billion years). Keep on looking, but remember to look at the star, not just the planets.
99.99% of objects in the solar system orbit the Sun in the same direction – counter-clockwise as viewed from above the up above the Earth’s North pole. But, as always, there is always the odd exception to prove the rule. This newly discovered asteroid is in a giant game of chicken with Jupiter
The unnamed asteroid shares Jupiter’s orbital space while moving in the opposite direction as the planet, which looks like a recipe for a collision, astronomers said. Yet somehow, the asteroid has managed to safely dodge Jupiter for at least tens of thousands of laps around the sun”
Aurora on Earth are caused by particles from the Sun interacting with our planet’s protective magnetic field. Without that magnetic field on Earth, we would not be here. All life is entirely dependent on the shielding that our magnetic field provides. So if we are to search for life elsewhere, one good way to separate out those planets that may harbor life from those that do not, will be to search for Aurora. Except we’re not at the stage in our technology where we can image planets around other stars well enough to see aurora. So we have to find another way.
Luckily, the aurora also produces radio waves. So instead of watching, we can listen.
ET is not phoning home, but we are hearing the potential for life in our solar system
A few weeks after NASA’s big announcement that we have discovered seven Earth-mass planets. As these are only 40 light years away from us, we could conceivably communicate (albeit with a 40-year delivery service). While we’re waiting, lets name them.
“People are so excited, in fact, that they’re not satisfied with sticking to their scientific names, which run the standard TRAPPIST-1b to TRAPPIST-1h. Naturally, that won’t cut it for the creative types of Twitter—or for NASA, which tweeted out the naming challenge on Friday. The hashtag #7namesfor7newplanets is quickly accumulating quite a collection of suggestions for these alternate homelands, from the Greek versions of our own solar system’s Roman planetary nomenclature to referencing Star Wars, Snow White’s dwarves, popular characters in TV and literature, and more.“
You can tweet your names to NASA using the hashtag #7namesfor7newplanets
Comment on this story by leaving your 7namesfor7newplanets below.
The search for life around other stars is essentially a search for a habitable zone – the area around a star where the distance is warm enough to sustain liquid water on the surface, but cold enough such that the water does not boil away or escape.
This definition of habitable zone now has to change to take into account the star itself. New research shows that winds coming off Red Giant stars can strip the planet of Oxygen. No Oxygen, no life. This means that our nearest confirmed Earth-sized exoplanet, around Proxima Centauri and only 4 light-years away, is not a good spot to go look for neighbors.
“If we want to find an exoplanet that can develop and sustain life, we must figure out which stars make the best parents,” said Vladimir Airapetian, lead author of the paper and a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We’re coming closer to understanding what kind of parent stars we need.”
The probability of intelligent life beyond Earth is very high. Its almost certain. But as space is big, the probability of any two intelligent sets of life on different planets communicating is pretty low.
However, simple life forms may be everywhere. Provide 3 things – water, heat and some nutrition – and life seems to get going pretty quick. One of the best spots for these three things may be Enceladus. This moon of Saturn was long considered a dead world. But new data is showing just how alive it might actually be.
“Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes”. That way you get to see things from their perspective. Well, so much more so then when you travel over 100 million miles. Here is us, taken from Mars. Reminds us what we look like, and how fragile we are.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was 127 million miles away from Earth when the picture was taken on November 20 using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). Alfred McEwen, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and principal investigator for the HiRISE camera, said “The Moon is much darker than Earth and would barely be visible at the same brightness scale as Earth,” McEwen said. “The combined view retains the correct sizes and positions of the two bodies relative to each other.”
If you’re born after 1986 then you’ve never saw it, and we all have to make it until 2061 before you can see it again.. But Halley’s comet is kind-of coming back tonight. Or at least bits of it. Every time it comes near the Sun it leaves bits of itself behind. Particles, Debris, dirt. Every year we run into those bits, like flies on a windscreen. Those bits make up the Orionid’s shooting star storm. And you can see it tonight. Just look up.