Tag Archives: fly-by

The asteroid is coming! The asteroid is coming!

The asteroid is coming! The asteroid is coming!

The fly-by of the large asteroid 1998 QE2 tomorrow at about 5 pm (Eastern) is causing a lot of hype. It is interesting, but hardly the big news event NASA and others want to make it. The scientists will like it because they get another close look at an asteroid. Others are using it to hype up the threat of asteroids, though that threat is not changed in any way by this fly-by.

Scientists have released some results from their look at asteroid 2012 DA14 during its fly-by last week.

Scientists have released some results, including video, from their look at asteroid 2012 DA14 during its fly-by last week. Key quote:

The asteroid’s path was perturbed by Earth’s gravitational field in such a way that it won’t come as close in the foreseeable future.

The video, which I have embeded below the fold, was produced from radar data. It clearly shows the asteroid’s rotation.
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A 150 foot wide asteroid will buzz the Earth tomorrow at a distance of only 17,000 miles.

Chicken Little report: A 150 foot wide asteroid will buzz the Earth tomorrow at a distance of only 17,000 miles.

There have been numerous news articles about this fly-by for the last two weeks, all hyping the dangers of an impact that in this case simply won’t happen. A threat of an impact from an asteroid is real and should be dealt with, but the reporting here has at times been somewhat silly. Asteroid 2012 DA14 is not going to hit us as it goes by. All that will happen is that scientists will have take advantage of this opportunity to look at it.

China’s Chang’e 2 lunar probe, now out of lunar orbit, did a fly-by of the 3 mile wide asteroid Toutatis as it zipped past the Earth last week, resulting in some spectacular images.

China’s Chang’e 2 lunar probe, now out of lunar orbit, did a fly-by of the 3 mile wide asteroid Toutatis as it zipped past the Earth last week, resulting in some spectacular images.

Launched on October 1, 2010, Chang’e 2 orbited the Moon for 8 months before being redirected last year to the L2 Lagrange point, roughly a million miles on the side of Earth opposite the Sun. But when it left L2 last April, Western observers suspected the spacecraft was heading deeper interplanetary space. It didn’t take long to realize that Chang’e 2 was bound for Toutatis.

This is an example of a very smart re-use of a space probe.

By the way, the first fly-by of another planet took place fifty years ago this week.

Astronomers have videotaped the fly-by of a 23-foot-wide asteroid as it zipped past the Earth on May 29 at a distance of only about 12,000 miles.

Astronomers have videotaped the fly-by of a 23-foot-wide asteroid as it zipped past the Earth on May 29 at a distance of only about 12,000 miles. The video is below the fold.
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Sponge in space

Hyperion

On August 25 Cassini did a close fly-by of the small Saturn moon Hyperion, getting as close as 15,500 miles. The mission has just released images from that fly-by.

Looks like a sponge, doesn’t it? This moon is small, only 168 miles across, which makes it about half the size of the asteroid Vesta that Dawn is presently orbiting. Why it is so peppered with craters is of course the big science question. I would guess this has something to do with the environment around Saturn, with its rings and the innumerable particles that come from it. Yet, other moons of Saturn are not as crater-filled, so there is obviously more to this than meets the eye.

This fly-by was the second closest of Hyperion that Cassini has done, the first passing over the the moon’s surface by only 310 miles. Because the irregularly-shaped moon’s rotation is more like a chaotic tumble, scientists could not predict what part of the surface they would see. To their luck the new images captured new territory.

Another fly-by is scheduled in only three weeks, on September 16, 2011. This time, however, the spacecraft won’t get as close, passing at a distance of about 36,000 miles.