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Let's Talk Asteroid Apophis, Planetary Defense and Elon Musk – Space.com

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It’s time to talk about Apophis again, I guess. Please calm down first.

The asteroid is about 1,100 feet (340 meters) wide, was discovered in 2004 and will make a reasonably close flyby of Earth on Friday, April 13, 2029. Apophis will not hit Earth during that flyby; more on that later. Nevertheless, it’s large and close and has a snappy name, and the internet loves its asteroids.

That’s presumably how SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ended up retweeting podcaster Joe Rogan’s post of an Express story (lacking any news relevance) about Apophis. “Great name!” Musk tweeted yesterday (Aug. 18). “Wouldn’t worry about this particular one, but a big rock will hit Earth eventually & we currently have no defense.”

Infographic: Asteroid Apophis’ Close Earth Flyby of 2029 Explained

Let’s dissect all this a bit. Musk and Rogan made headlines in September when Musk appeared on the latter’s podcast for a three-hour discussion of Tesla and whether the universe is a simulation. During that appearance, Musk infamously smoked marijuana and sipped whiskey, which prompted a NASA review of commercial space partnerships, according to The Washington Post.

It is unclear from his tweet whether Musk is referring to the asteroid’s actual name, Apophis, or the “God of Chaos” terminology inserted by the news outlet Rogan cited. 

Asteroid 99942 was first dubbed 2004 MN4 based on a formula marking its discovery and was given a formal name Apophis the next year. According to the International Astronomical Union, which oversees all official names in space, the name Apophis commemorates the “Egyptian god of evil and destruction who dwelled in eternal darkness.”

Musk is mostly correct in his assessment of Apophis itself. The rock is dubbed a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid for its relatively large size and relatively close approaches, but it’s a very long way from potentially hazardous to actually impacting. Asteroid experts are confident it will not hit Earth at that time: They’ve calculated a trajectory 7.4 miles (12 kilometers) wide that passes thousands of miles away from our home planet during that close encounter. Scientists have also ruled out a 2036 impact.

Related: Huge Asteroid Apophis Flies By Earth on Friday the 13th in 2029

ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory captured asteroid Apophis in its field of view during the approach to Earth on January, 5-6, 2013. This image shows the asteroid in Herschel’s three PACS wavelengths: 70, 100 and 160 microns.

(Image credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MACH-11/MPE/B.Altieri (ESAC) and C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory))

Apophis is just one of thousands of asteroids that scientists have identified. That includes nearly 900 near Earth objects more than 0.6 miles (1 km) wide and nearly 9,000 of them more than 459 feet (150 m), the class into which Apophis falls. A host of instruments on the ground and in space continue to spot more and more of these objects and gather the data necessary for scientists to calculate the rocks’ trajectories.

That said, these scientists can’t guarantee Apophis and Earth will never meet. Although they have a very good sense of the rock’s current trajectory, the tug of Earth’s gravity during its 2029 encounter will likely skew its path, throwing off orbital calculations into the future. Potentially, many many decades from now, humans may indeed need to worry about Apophis.

Other space rocks could also be a problem on that sort of time scale, but right now, NASA hasn’t spotted any asteroids with worrying trajectories. “No known asteroid poses a significant risk of impact with Earth over the next 100 years,” according to the website of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

If that status changes, although it would be scary, it wouldn’t mark a new risk in the world, just a new knowledge of our risk; the asteroid would hit us whether or not we had identified it.

Related: Even If We Can Stop a Dangerous Asteroid, Being Human May Mean We Don’t Succeed

And that’s the entire point of scientists’ efforts to find and study asteroids in our neighborhood: If we learn about an approaching asteroid a day in advance, there’s nothing we can do, as Musk implies. That was the case, most recently, for the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013. On other short timescales, humans may be able only to mitigate the worst damage, by evacuating people or perhaps using a nuclear explosion to split the asteroid into smaller pieces more likely to break up in Earth’s atmosphere.

But say hypothetically that someone spotted an asteroid 10 years before it were to slam into Earth. That’s a long enough timescale that humans could realistically muster a response, depending on the particular constraints of the asteroid. Such a mission would knock an asteroid to travel a smidge faster or slower along its orbit in such a way that it would miss its appointment with Earth.

The planetary defense community is already working to develop smarter and more effective responses to the intricacies of an individual asteroid threat through hypothetical exercises.

Related: A Fake Asteroid Headed to Earth Can Really Make You Think

And while humans have yet to launch any planetary defense missions, that will change soon. One of SpaceX’s own Falcon 9 rockets is due to launch NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, or DART. In October 2022, the spacecraft will crash into the smaller half of a binary asteroid, then measure the deflection the impact causes. The exercise will help planetary defense experts better calibrate any future necessary missions to the size of the threatening asteroid.

It’s also worth pointing out that Musk’s statement was made in the context of a retweet of an Express headline and link. Now is probably a good time to remind you that Express is one of several media outlets notorious for overhyping asteroid flybys to draw clicks.

That said, the Express headline does actually make a very good point about the 2029 flyby, intentionally or not. NASA and other experts are certainly preparing for the asteroid’s visit — because it’s an incredible opportunity for scientists to better understand the asteroids that are all around us.

Scientists believe Apophis matches at least superficially about 80% of the potentially hazardous asteroids they’ve spotted around Earth to date, and the 2029 close approach will bring it well within reach of a host of instruments. Scientists want to know, for example, how much the flyby stretches and distorts Apophis and how solar radiation warming one side of the space rock affects its orbital path.

And yes, that information, once gathered, will feed into the continuing work of planetary defense experts who have spent years working on the precise problem of predicting and mitigating asteroid impacts. 

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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A giant full beaver moon set to dazzle Metro Vancouver skies – Vancouver Courier

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While it is getting darker earlier in Metro Vancouver, this month’s full beaver moon promises to illuminate the night sky.

The November full moon is thought to have derived its funny name because it occurred during the optimal time to trap the furry creatures. In fact, both colonial Americans as well as the Algonquin tribes referred to it as such.

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“Why this name? Back then, this was the month to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs,” reports Farmer’s Almanac.

While it is commonly known as the beaver moon, it was also called the Full Frost Moon by other North American Tribes.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the moon will be fullest during the day on Tuesday, Nov. 12. However, Vancouver stargazers will still be able to see the nearly-full moon in all her celestial glory the night before (Nov. 11) as well as later that night (Nov. 12).

What’s more, this full moon casts long, hauntingly beautiful shadows in the Northern Hemisphere. They are similar to those cast by the midday summer sun, as the moon is extremely high in the sky during this time.

Stargazers should opt to travel as far away from city lights as possible in order to avoid light pollution that will obscure the clarity of heavenly bodies. While this works best the in more remote places, anywhere that has a higher elevation will also provide more ideal viewing conditions.

Click here for original article.

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All-female space walk a starry-eyed achievement: The Statesman – The Straits Times

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NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – It is a starry-eyed achievement almost literally.

Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, two NASA astronauts, have crafted space history by embarking on what they call the first all-female space walk.

Tasked with replacing a failed power control unit, their performance has been decidedly spectacular as they floated feet-first out of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Quest airlock on Friday (Oct 18).

The spacewalk, known as an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) in the jargon of astronauts, took place seven months after the originally scheduled date for an “all-female outing”, which had to be dropped because the ISS had only one medium-sized spacesuit on board.

The agency sent up a second medium spacesuit in October.

From space to ground zero, the happiest thought at the moment must be that both the achievement and empowerment of women are now manifest in the rarified atmosphere of space.

Very appropriately has the significance of the spacewalk been summed up by Christina: “I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing,” she said ahead of the spacewalk.

“In the past, women haven’t always been at the table. It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space programme at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role. That can lead in turn to increased chance for success.”

On closer reflection, more than the space-walk, it is the assignment that is historic to fix a failed power control unit.

Previously, 14 women and 213 men had carried out spacewalks. The first woman was the Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, who went outside the USSR’s Salyut 7 space station in 1984.

Video footage from the astronauts’ helmet cameras, as they dangled 260 miles above Earth, provided a live stream of the painstaking operation to carry the new hardware, install it and then return the faulty battery to the airlock for a postmortem back on Earth into why it failed.

Their work in space will, therefore, be followed up by the labs on Earth.

Exceptional must be the projected coordination between space science and pure science as the world knows it.

At 40, Christina is due to remain on the ISS until February, bringing her total time in space to 328 days, the longest single spaceflight by a woman and just short of Scott Kelly’s 340-day record.

Researchers are collecting extensive biomedical data on the impact of spaceflight on her system.

The majority of data available is on male astronauts, but there is some evidence that there are sex differences in response to a space environment.

One study found that women are more likely than men to suffer faintness as a result of “orthostatic hypotension”, a cardiovascular issue.

Men appear more prone to vision changes caused by spaceflight associated neuroocular syndrome (Sans).

A flight to space has a lot to bear on human health. The contretemps notwithstanding, NASA has reached a milestone.

The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.

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NASA Invites Media to Next SpaceX Space Station Cargo Launch – PRNewswire

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Media accreditation is open for the launch of the next SpaceX delivery of science investigations, supplies, and equipment to the International Space Station.

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida no earlier than Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 12:48 p.m. EST.

Media prelaunch and launch activities will take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and neighboring CCAFS. Credentialing deadlines are as follows:

  • International media without U.S. citizenship must apply by 4:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, Oct. 27.
  • U.S. media must apply by 4:30 p.m. EST Friday, Nov. 15.

All media accreditation requests should be submitted online at:

https://media.ksc.nasa.gov

For questions about accreditation, please email ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov. For other questions, contact Kennedy’s newsroom at 321-867-2468.

Each resupply mission to the station delivers scientific investigations in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Space station research through the ISS National Lab also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions, to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.

Highlights of space station research that will be facilitated by research aboard this SpaceX Dragon mission include testing the effectiveness of a device to separate and capture water droplets suspended in an air stream, delivering a next-generation spaceborne system to image Earth in higher spectral resolution than currently possible onboard the TERRA satellite, and testing conditions to develop an inexpensive and scalable process to manufacture optical materials in space.

Cargo resupply from U.S. companies ensures a national capability to deliver critical science research to the space station, significantly increasing NASA’s ability to conduct new investigations at the only laboratory in space. This is the 19th SpaceX mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and enables research not possible on Earth. The space station has been occupied continuously since November 2000. In that time, 239 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft have visited the orbiting laboratory. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

For launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/spacex

SOURCE NASA

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http://www.nasa.gov

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