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
As just published in Nature
and discussed on Space.com
Wrong-Way, Daredevil Asteroid Plays ‘Chicken’ with Jupiter
“Astronomers have found a bizarre asteroid orbiting the sun in the wrong direction while playing a risky game of “chicken” with the largest planet in the solar system.
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”
A great chance to see so much tonight. Look west at sunset to see the lazy crescent moon, lying on its back. You simply can’t miss Jupiter nearby because it’s the brightest starlike object in the evening sky – brighter than any star. Now look to the left – see three stars in a line that make up Orions’s belt. Between the moon and Orion you’ll see a set of stars in a V shape. They make up the face and horns of Taurus the bull. The brightest star of that V is Aldebaran- the eye of the bull – a star in the twilight of its life. Now the hardest part. Look right of the moon and Jupiter and you see a small fuzzy blob called Pleiadas, one of the few constellations where the stars are actually close to each other in space. The Pleiades star cluster is composed of hundreds of stars that were born out of the same vast cloud of gas and dust in space. The Pleiades stars are still moving together through the galaxy. If you have binoculars, use them to get a better view of the Pleiades cluster. It won’t be much longer before Pleiades drops out of the evening sky.
A wonderful opportunity to recognize celestial objects far and near.
“Is there Life on Europa, Io or Ganymede?” New Mission Set to Jupiter’s Moons
life on europa, io, or ganymede
The new ESA mission is set to study the bigger moons of Jupiter for signs of life. 20 years ago this project would have been dismissed as mad, but the last two decades of Earth studies have changed all that. We found that now matter where we look at on Earth, no matter how inhospitable, no matter how nasty, if you provide some sort of heat and liquid then you get life. Now we’re not talking about iPhones, coffee and Facebook; but we do get microorganisms, bigger life that lives on them, bigger ones depend on those and so on. This makes the galilean moons of Jupiter prime candidates. Their proximity to the giant planets means they get squished and squashed during their orbits, keeping them hot inside. Their icy composition makes water a distinct possibility. Take some water, add in heat, and why not have life? We’ll know soon, and it could change everything.
At first glance at this story I think ‘Great. Another achievement for ESA’
JUpiter ICy moon Explorer
but then the flip side reveals itself as
the Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics
organizes a preemptive strike against a possible forthcoming rejection. At 2 euro per person per year ESA basically is struggling on a shoestring. It is having to make impossible scientific judgement calls on comparing a mission to Jupiter’s moon to X-ray cosmology. It’s like pitting apples and oranges in a fight to see who is ‘most fruity’. And so the decision, although supposedly based on science, often turns to be based on history, politics, and supposed technology readiness level.
Astronomers are left fighting amongst themselves for 2-euro scraps off the table. Economies are bad, money is tight, but is asking for another couple of Euro per person really that bad? After all, UK alone spends 50 billion euro (38 billion pounds) per year in military – 1000 euro per UK taxpayer. And we just ‘awarded’ over 120 billions euros (100 billion pounds) to the banks – 2000 euro per taxpayer.
For less than the price of a morning coffee Europe could have a space agency to be proud of, with missions surpassing all other nations – even NASA.