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A 49-Foot Asteroid Will Skim Earth Tomorrow At 28,900 MPH – The Inquisitr

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A small asteroid is making its way towards our planet and will swoop in for an extremely close approach tomorrow, NASA has announced. The space rock is estimated to measure 49 feet in diameter at the most and will skim Earth from just 437,100 miles away — or less than two times the distance to the moon. While a close brush with an asteroid of any size can certainly be unnerving, NASA points out that there’s no reason to panic. The flyby will be a perfectly safe one, and won’t cause any disturbance to Earth and its inhabitants.

Tomorrow’s celestial visitor is known as asteroid 2020 FF1, and was only recently discovered. According to a report released earlier this week by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the space rock was picked up by asteroid trackers on Monday, March 16. After studying its orbital path, NASA classified the near-Earth object as an Apollo-type asteroid. This means that the rock has the potential of being “Earth-crossing,” and can not only approach our planet but also cross its orbit.

As NASA explains, the orbit of an asteroid is calculated by taking careful measurements of its position as it moves across the sky. The data is compared to computer models of the rock’s orbit around the sun. “It is possible to calculate a rough orbit with only three observations, but the more observations that are used, and the longer the period over which those observations are made, the more accurate is the calculated orbit and the predictions that can be made from it,” states the space agency.

In the case of asteroid 2020 FF1, scientists spent two days observing the rock over a series of 13 different sessions. The data showed that the asteroid circles the sun once every two years or so, and that it has ventured to our corner of the solar system only once before — on March 1, 2018.

 

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NASA predicts that the rock will swing by Earth on Sunday evening, reaching nearest to our planet at 7:09 p.m. ET. At the time of its close approach, the asteroid will be traveling at a speed of more than 28,900 mph relative to Earth. About seven hours later, the asteroid will make a quick pass by the moon, scraping past the lunar surface from a distance of 474,300 miles.

Its previous trip through the Earth-moon system carried the asteroid significantly farther away from our planet. Two years ago, 2020 FF1 flew past us at a staggering distance of 34.6 million miles. The rock is not expected to return for the foreseeable future.

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Celebrate Yuri's Night 2020 online with Bill Nye, astronauts and more this weekend! – Space.com

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This Saturday (April 11), 50 years after Apollo 13 launched to the moon, you can celebrate human spaceflight with a Yuri’s Night livestream event. 

Yuri’s Night events have been held annually since 2001 and were originally designed as a way to celebrate human spaceflight. The event is named after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human to go to space on April 12, 1961. 

In addition to the main annual Yuri’s Night event, including music, art, science and more, people also independently throw their own “Yuri’s Nights” all around the world however they want in whatever location they want.

Related: Vostok 1: How the First Human Spaceflight Worked (Infographic)

However, while “there is no ‘typical’ Yuri’s Night party,” Tim Bailey, executive director of Yuri’s Night, told Space.com in an email, this weekend will certainly be different from previous celebrations. “This year almost all local events have been canceled to help slow the spread of the coronavirus,” he said. The closures also mean that the annual event will be livestreamed. 

But the online event will feature an all-star cast of scientists, artists and astronauts who will be participating in the event. Spaceflyers taking part include South Korean astronaut Soyeon Yi, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and retired NASA astronauts Nicole Stott and Scott Kelly, Bailey said, while other guests include celebrity science communicator Bill Nye, former rocket scientist and current CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA Silvia Acevedo, founding member of the Grateful Dead Bob Weir and “Star Trek: Voyager” actor Robert Picardo.

Alongside the livestream, Yuri’s Night will hold a costume contest to mark the occasion, so don your favorite flight suit or get creative and make an imaginative space-inspired costume with things you already have at home. You could even win “fabulous prizes,” Bailey said, if you enter your costume by posting it on Twitter with the hashtag #YurisNight. 

You can watch the livestream and stay up-to-date with the evolving list of guests here

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Mercury-bound spacecraft buzzes Earth, beams back pictures – CityNews Edmonton

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A Mercury-bound spacecraft swooped past Earth on Friday, tweaking its round-about path to the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet.

Launched 1 1/2 years ago, Europe and Japan’s Bepi-Colombo spacecraft passed within 8,000 miles (12,700 kilometres) of Earth. The closest approach occurred over the South Atlantic, with telescopes in Chile catching a glimpse of the speeding spacecraft.

The gravity tug from Earth slowed Bepi-Colombo and put it on a course closer to the sun.

It was the first of nine planetary gravity assists — and the only one involving Earth — on the spacecraft’s seven-year journey to Mercury. The spacecraft — comprised of two scientific orbiters — should reach Mercury in 2025, after swinging twice past Venus and six times past Mercury itself. The next flyby will be at Venus in October.

Before leaving Earth’s vicinity, Bepi-Colombo beamed back black-and-white pictures of the home planet. The spacecraft holds three GoPro-type cameras.

“These selfies from space are humbling, showing our planet, the common home that we share, in one of the most troubling and uncertain periods many of us have gone through,” Gunther Hasinger, the European Space Agency’s science director, said via Twitter.

The space agency’s control centre in Germany had fewer staff than usual for Friday’s operation because of the coronavirus pandemic. The ground controllers sat far apart as they monitored the flyby. Data from the flyby will be used to calibrate Bepi-Colombo’s science instruments.

Scientists hope to learn more about the origin and composition of Mercury, once the European and Japanese orbiters separate and begin their own circling of the scorched planet.

Mercury is the least explored of our solar system’s four rocky planets. It’s just a little bigger than our moon and circles the sun in just 88 days.

The spacecraft is named after Italian mathematician and engineer Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo, who devised the use of planetary flybys for Mercury encounters. He died in 1984.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

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50 years after Apollo 13, we can now see the moon as the astronauts did – Space.com

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This Saturday (April 11) will mark 50 years since NASA’s Apollo 13 mission launched on an unexpectedly tumultuous journey around the moon. Now, a modern lunar orbiter has reconstructed what the Apollo 13 astronauts would have seen of the lunar surface. 

Famously described as a “successful failure,” Apollo 13 did not go as planned: An oxygen tank exploded 56 hours into the mission. Thankfully, some fast-thinking teamwork between the astronauts and mission control back on Earth salvaged the mission and, after a trip around the moon, the astronauts safely returned to Earth. 

So, while the crew didn’t land on the moon as planned, they did travel around it and, thanks to modern technology, we can now see what they saw on this journey. 

Related: Apollo 13 in Real-Time website offers new insight into mission

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A photo of the lunar surface taken by the Apollo 13 astronauts on their trip around the moon. (Image credit: NASA)

A photo of the lunar surface taken by the Apollo 13 astronauts on their trip around the moon. 

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Soon after sunrise, the Apollo 13 crew snapped this incredible shot of the moon.

Soon after sunrise, the Apollo 13 crew snapped this incredible shot of the moon. (Image credit: NASA)

Soon after sunrise, the Apollo 13 crew snapped this incredible shot of the moon. 

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A snapshot of the Tsiolkovskiy crater, taken by the Apollo 13 crew with a telephoto lens.

A snapshot of the Tsiolkovskiy crater, taken by the Apollo 13 crew with a telephoto lens. (Image credit: NASA)

A snapshot of the Tsiolkovskiy crater, taken by the Apollo 13 crew with a telephoto lens. 

Researchers used data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission to recreate what the Apollo 13 crew saw as they flew around the far side of the moon. In the video, you can see craters and other lunar features emerge from the darkness. You can imagine yourself as any of the crewmembers — commander Jim Lovell, command module pilot Jack Swigert or lunar module pilot Fred Haise — looking down and watching the lunar surface pass by as the spacecraft flew overhead. 

In addition to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data, the researchers also consulted the Apollo 13 flight plan and, despite the major change in plans with the mission, were able to use the position and speed at the craft’s closest point to the Moon which was listed in the Apollo 13 Mission Report. Taken together, those details allowed them to determine factors including the position and speed of the spacecraft at its closest point to the moon, which helped clarify the vehicle’s trajectory. 

To create this virtual trip around the moon, this team was also informed by photos taken by the Apollo 13 crew during this trip around the moon. You can see some of the captivating original images above, but you can also find every Apollo 13 photo ever online in the Apollo Image Atlas

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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