Asteroid and Comet Deflection

A Retrograde Asteroid Sharing Jupiter’s Orbit

March 29, 2017

We recently looked at JAXA’s planned solar sail mission to Jupiter (see JAXA Sail to Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids), but I want to come back around to the Trojans this morning in light of a discovery announced today. The more we learn about the Trojans, the better. Most appear to be class D asteroids, dark with […]

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Rosetta: Chronicling Cometary Change

March 22, 2017

Learning about the changes that occur on a cometary surface over time was a primary goal of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, which orbited comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko between August 2014 and September 2016. This was a period when the comet was swinging through the inner Solar System as it closed to perihelion. Now we have […]

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NASA Selects Two Asteroid Missions

January 6, 2017

Among the five finalists for NASA’s Discovery program, I had become attached to the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam), whose purpose was to expand our catalog greatly, with the potential, according to mission backers, of finding ten times more NEOs than we’ve found to date. We’ll see if NEOCam has a future (I’ve just learned […]

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Hitchhiker to the Outer System?

January 4, 2017

Years ago at the Aosta conference on interstellar studies, Greg Matloff told attendees about an interesting way to travel the Solar System. If the goal is to get to Mars, for example, it turns out that there are two objects — 1999YR14 and 2007EE26 — that pass close to both Earth and Mars, each with […]

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OSIRIS-REx to Hunt for Earth ‘Trojans’

December 14, 2016

The so-called ‘trojan’ asteroids that cluster at 60° ahead and behind the planet Jupiter make up a surprisingly populous category. Consider that thus far we have found only one trojan at Earth’s Lagrangian points, while over 6000 have been discovered in Jupiter’s orbit. The total number of trojans larger than 1 km in diameter associated […]

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Thoughts on Rosetta’s End

October 3, 2016

A mission as complex as the European Space Agency’s highly successful Rosetta is a compilation of interlocking parts. I always find it fascinating to look at the instrumentation aboard. Take Alice, a UV imaging spectrograph no bigger than a shoebox. Alice weighs in at less than 4 kilograms and draws a meager 4 watts of […]

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Assessing the Asteroid Factor

September 21, 2016

I’ve always thought that the biggest driver for our next steps in space is the presence of asteroids. Asteroids affect us in two powerful ways, the first being that they are sources of potential wealth for companies like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, as commercial operations use robotics and eventually humans to extract water […]

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A Rapidly Disintegrating Comet

September 20, 2016

Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami has had a short but colorful history in our observations. First detected in 2010 by two amateur astronomers in Japan, the comet has been spinning off debris at least since 2015 and probably earlier. A large fragment, as big as Comet 332P itself, may have broken off in 2012. Still close to the […]

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Philae Lander Found as Rosetta Nears End

September 7, 2016

We’re only a month away from further excitement from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As the mission approaches its final days, the Rosetta orbiter will conclude its activities with a controlled descent to the region called Ma’at, an area of open pits on the comet’s surface that may reveal information about its interior structure. The descent, which will […]

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Getting Ready for OSIRIS-REx

August 18, 2016

Back in the 1930s, the German astronomer Karl Reinmuth discovered a near-Earth asteroid now called 1862 Apollo, which gave its name to the Apollo asteroids, all of them Earth-crossing and of high interest to those looking to plan asteroid missions. The number of known Apollo asteroids totals close to 7000. The one that gains our […]

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