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New asteroid spotted just before impact with Earth – Freethink

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New asteroid spotted just before impact with Earth

NASA was able to accurately predict its impact location and time.

On March 11, astronomers at NASA were able to pinpoint almost exactly where and when a new asteroid would hit Earth’s atmosphere, before it made contact. 

It’s just the fifth time in history an asteroid has been spotted before it hit the Earth, but it’s a sign that our early asteroid defense systems are working as hoped.

The discovery: On March 11, at 3:34 p.m. ET, Krisztián Sárneczky, an astronomer at Hungary’s Piszkéstető Observatory, spotted a bright object moving quickly across the sky. 

“Very few of these asteroids have been detected in space and observed extensively prior to impact.”

Paul Chodas

He collected four observations and sent them to the Minor Planet Center (MPC), which keeps track of the asteroids, comets, and other small celestial bodies in our solar system.

The MPC posted the observations of the object — now known as “2022 EB5” — on its public database, so that other astronomers could attempt to find the object and confirm that it was a new asteroid.

Sárneczky then sent another 10 observations to the MPC, which it also posted.

The surveillance: NASA has a system called “Scout” that automatically searches MPC’s database for any objects that might impact Earth or Earth’s atmosphere.

Using Sárneczky’s observations, Scout was able to calculate the trajectory of the new asteroid — and determine that it was on a collision course with Earth.

“Scout had only 14 observations over 40 minutes from one observatory to work with when it first identified the object as an impactor,” said Davide Farnocchia, a NASA engineer who developed Scout. 

[embedded content]

Global effort: Not long after the MPC posted Sárneczky’s observations, other astronomers — both amateur and professional — started submitting their own observations of 2022 EB5. 

These helped NASA narrow down its predicted impact location and time to the atmosphere southwest of a Norwegian island called Jan Mayen, at 5:22 p.m. ET.

Infrasound detectors later confirmed that the new asteroid entered the atmosphere above the Norwegian Sea as predicted at 5:23 p.m. ET — less than two hours after it was first spotted in the night sky of Hungary.

Not a big one: The idea that NASA didn’t know an asteroid was on a collision course with Earth until about an hour before impact sounds bad — but the detection of 2022 EB5 is actually pretty remarkable.

Only four other asteroids have ever been detected prior to impact, and while asteroids of 2022 EB5’s size — about 6.5 feet in diameter — hit our atmosphere once every 10 months or so, we rarely spot them before impact.

“[V]ery few of these asteroids have actually been detected in space and observed extensively prior to impact, basically because they are very faint until the last few hours,” said Paul Chodas, the director of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

“[A] survey telescope has to observe just the right spot of sky at the right time for one to be detected,” he added.

The new asteroid entered the atmosphere less than two hours after it was first spotted.

What it means: Now, NASA has more confidence that it could spot a larger asteroid — the kind that could cause serious damage to Earth.

“This real-world event with a very small asteroid allowed the planetary defense community to exercise capabilities and gave some confidence that the impact prediction models at CNEOS are highly capable of informing the response to the potential impact of a larger object,” wrote NASA.

That detection would likely happen while the space rock was much farther away from our planet, with impact days, months, or even years into the future — giving us enough time (hopefully) to try to stop the space rock, perhaps by deflecting, slicing, or blowing it up.

We’d love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at tips@freethink.com.

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Dusty demise for NASA Mars lander in July; power dwindling – CGTN

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise. 

The InSight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off. 

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist. 

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago. 

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface – rovers Curiosity and Perseverance – are still going strong thanks to nuclear power. The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival. Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max. 

The InSight team had anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close. 

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters. 

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow 16 feet (5 meters) underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a couple of feet (a half-meter) because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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Blood moon, big city: Skywatcher captures total lunar eclipse over New York (photos) – Space.com

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The eclipsed moon burns red high above the bright lights of New York City in gorgeous photos captured by amateur astronomer Alexander Krivenyshev.

Krivenyshev, the president of WorldTimeZone.com, snapped images of the total lunar eclipse on Sunday night (May 15) from Guttenberg, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson River from the Big Apple. 

He persevered through cloudy conditions, Krivenyshev told Space.com via email, to get shots of the blood-red moon shining like a beacon in a light-polluted sky.

Related: Amazing photos of the Super Flower Blood Moon of 2022

A closeup of the eclipsed moon on May 15, 2022, as photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev. (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

The eclipse began at 9:32 p.m EDT on Sunday (0132 GMT on May 16) when the moon nosed into the light part of Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra, and ended five hours later. The total eclipse phase, in which the moon was completely darkened by Earth’s heavier umbral shadow, lasted 85 minutes, the longest of any lunar eclipse in 33 years.

Earth’s nearest neighbor temporarily turns a coppery red during total lunar eclipses. This “blood moon” effect is caused by Earth’s atmosphere, which bends some red light onto the lunar surface while scattering away shorter-wavelength light. (No sunlight is hitting the moon directly at this point, of course; Earth is blocking the sun from the moon’s perspective.)

Another series of shots of the total lunar eclipse over New York City, photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev on May 15, 2022.  (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

Related stories:

Last weekend’s sky show was best observed from the Americas and parts of Western Europe and West Africa. It was the first total lunar eclipse of the year, but it won’t be the last; another one will occur on Nov. 8. The Nov. 8 lunar eclipse will be best observed from Australia, eastern Asia and the western United States. 

If you’re hoping to photograph the moon, or want to prepare for the next total lunar eclipse, check out our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. Our guides on how to photograph a lunar eclipse, and how to photograph the moon with a camera, also have some helpful tips to plan out your lunar photo session.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing lunar eclipse photo (or your own eclipse webcast) and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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NASA's Mars InSight mission coming to an end as dust covers solar panels – CBC News

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise.

The Insight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off.

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist.

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago.

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

WATCH | NASA scientists discuss InSight’s goals on Mars: [embedded content]

Rethinking solar power

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface — rovers Curiosity and Perseverance — are still going strong thanks to nuclear power.

The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival.

Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max.

The InSight team anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or a dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close.

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters.

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow five metres underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a half-metre because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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