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Chinese researchers propose transforming asteroids "Armageddon" with missiles – Aviation Analysis Wing

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A model of the Long March-5 Y5 rocket from China’s Chang’e-5 Mission lunar exploration program is displayed in an exhibit at the National Museum in Beijing, China, March 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese researchers plan to send more than 20 of China’s largest rockets to practice diverting a large asteroid, a technique that could eventually prove important as the deadly rocks come on a collision course with Earth.

The idea is more than just science fiction. Sometime between late 2021 and early 2022, the United States will launch a robotic spacecraft to intercept two asteroids relatively close to Earth.

When it arrives a year later, NASA’s spacecraft will land on the smaller of the two rocky bodies to see how much the asteroid’s path has changed. It would be humanity’s first attempt to change the course of a celestial body.

At the National Space Center in China, researchers found in simulations that the simultaneous launch of 23 Long March 5 rockets could deflect a large asteroid from its original course by 1.4 times the radius of Earth.

Their calculations are based on an asteroid called Bennu, which orbits the sun and is about as wide as the Empire State Building. It belongs to a class of rocks that can cause regional or continental damage. Asteroids extending more than a kilometer long will have global impacts.

The Science Center cited a study recently published in Icarus, the journal of Planetary Science.

Long-range Mars 5 missiles are central to China’s short-term aviation ambitions — from supplying space station modules to launching sensors to the moon and Mars. China has successfully launched six Long March 5 missiles since 2016, the last of which has caused some security concerns. The remains were released back into the atmosphere in May.

“The proposal to keep the upper stage of a launcher on a conductive spacecraft and to have a ‘large kinetic collider’ deflecting an asteroid is a rather fascinating concept,” said Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen’s University Belfast Astrophysics Research Center.

“By increasing the mass hitting the asteroid, simple physics should have a much greater impact,” Fitzsimmons told Reuters, though he added that the actual workings of such a mission needed to be studied in more detail.

Professor Gareth Collins of Imperial College London said current estimates show there is a 1% chance that a 100-meter-wide asteroid will hit Earth in the next 100 years.

“Something the size of a Bennu collision is 10 times less likely,” Collins said.

Scientists say changing the asteroid’s path is less dangerous than blasting the rock with nuclear explosives, which can create smaller fragments without changing its course.

(Reporting by Ryan Wu). Additional reporting by Liangping Zhao. Editing by Jerry Doyle

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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NASA discovers double crater on the moon – CTV News

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The moon has a new double crater after a rocket body collided with its surface on March 4.

New images shared by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the moon since 2009, have revealed the location of the unusual crater.

The impact created two craters that overlap, an eastern crater measuring 59 feet (18 metres) across and a western crater spanning 52.5 feet (16 metres). Together, they create a depression that is roughly 91.8 feet (28 metres) wide in the longest dimension.

Although astronomers expected the impact after discovering that the rocket part was on track to collide with the moon, the double crater it created was a surprise.

Typically, spent rockets have the most mass at the motor end because the rest of the rocket is largely just an empty fuel tank. But the double crater suggests that this object had large masses at both ends when it hit the moon.

The exact origin of the rocket body, a piece of space junk that had been careening around for years, is unclear, so the double crater could help astronomers determine what it was.

The moon lacks a protective atmosphere, so it’s littered with craters created when objects like asteroids regularly slam into the surface.

This was the first time a piece of space junk unintentionally hit the lunar surface that experts know of. But craters have resulted from spacecraft being deliberately crashed into the moon.

For example, four large moon craters attributed to the Apollo 13, 14, 15 and 17 missions are all much larger than each of the overlapping craters created during the March 4 impact. However, the maximum width of the new double crater is similar to the Apollo craters.

UNCLEAR ORIGIN

Bill Gray, an independent researcher focused on orbital dynamics and the developer of astronomical software, was first to spot the trajectory of the rocket booster.

Gray had initially identified it as the SpaceX Falcon rocket stage that launched the US Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, in 2015 but later said he’d gotten that wrong and it was likely from a 2014 Chinese lunar mission — an assessment NASA agreed with.

However, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the booster was from its Chang’e-5 moon mission, saying that the rocket in question burned up on reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.

No agencies systematically track space debris so far away from Earth, and the confusion over the origin of the rocket stage has underscored the need for official agencies to monitor deep-space junk more closely, rather than relying on the limited resources of private individuals and academics.

However, experts say that the bigger challenge is the space debris in low-Earth orbit, an area where it can collide with functioning satellites, create more junk and threaten human life on crewed spacecraft.

There are at least 26,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth that are the size of a softball or larger and could destroy a satellite on impact; over 500,000 objects the size of a marble — big enough to cause damage to spacecraft or satellites; and over 100 million pieces the size of a grain of salt, tiny debris that could nonetheless puncture a spacesuit, according to a NASA report issued last year.

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7 Amazing Dark Sky National Parks – AARP

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James Ronan/Getty Images/Steve Burns

Great Basin, Arches, and Voyageurs National Park

Can’t afford to join a commercial space mission offered by Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson? Consider the next best thing: seeing a starry, starry night in a sea of darkness, unimpeded by artificial light, at one of the International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S. It’s a rare treat, since light pollution prevents nearly 80 percent of Americans from seeing the Milky Way from their homes.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA) has certified 14 of the nation’s 63 national parks as dark sky destinations. So visitors can take full advantage of such visibility, many of them offer specialized after-dark programs, from astronomy festivals and ranger-led full-moon walks to star parties and astrophotography workshops. If you prefer to stargaze on your own at a park, the National Park Service recommends bringing a pair of 7-by-50 binoculars, a red flashlight, which enhances night vision, and a star chart, which shows the arrangement of stars in the sky.

Here are seven of the IDSA-certified parks where you can appreciate how the heavens looked from the Earth before the dawn of electric light.




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Award-winning travel writer Veronica Stoddart is the former travel editor of USA Today. She has written for dozens of travel publications and websites.​​

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A Mystery Rocket Left A Crater On The Moon – Forbes

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While we think of the moon as a static place, sometimes an event happens that reminds us that things can change quickly.

On March 4, a human-made object (a rocket stage) slammed into the moon and left behind a double crater, as seen by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission.

Officials announced June 23 that they spotted a double crater associated with the event. But what’s really interesting is there’s no consensus about what kind of rocket caused it.

China has denied claims that the rocket was part of a Long March 3 rocket that launched the country’s Chang’e-5 T1 mission in October 2014, although the orbit appeared to match. Previous speculation suggested it might be from a SpaceX rocket launching the DISCOVR mission, but newer analysis has mostly discredited that.

On a broader scale, the value of LRO observations like this is showing how the moon can change even over a small span of time. The spacecraft has been in orbit there since 2009 and has spotted numerous new craters since its arrival.

It’s also a great spacecraft scout, having hunted down the Apollo landing sites from orbit and also having tracked down a few craters from other missions that slammed into the moon since the dawn of space exploration.

It may be that humans return to the moon for a closer-up look in the coming decade, as NASA is developing an Artemis program to send people to the surface no earlier than 2025.

LRO will also be a valuable scout for that set of missions, as the spacecraft’s maps will be used to develop plans for lunar bases or to help scout safe landing sites for astronauts.

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