Showing posts with the label asteroid

Luxembourg and Asteroid Mining

Stories like "Rip Foster Rides the Gray Planet" and "Red Dwarf's" Dave Lister singing "...Lived an old plutonium miner / And his daughter Clementine..." probably didn't help make asteroid mining seem like a serious idea.

Then there's the 1966 Outer Space Treaty treaty: a tribute to the high ideals, and international politics, of the '60s. The idea was that anything we find outside Earth's atmosphere would belong to everyone. Nifty idea, not entirely wrong, and I'll get back to that.

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Ceres, Pluto: There’s More to Learn

That's part of a picture from New Horizons: a sample from the highest-resolution images the spacecraft has started sending back.

We're pretty sure that the mountains are frozen water, and the flat parts softer "ice:" probably including frozen nitrogen.

The first journal paper using New Horizons' flyby data was published in October: but there's a great deal left to study, and even more still stored on New Horizons. (November 13, 2015)

Other scientists think they've found evidence that those bright spots in Occator Crater are frozen water, exposed when something hit Ceres. If they're right, the impact(s) happened recently. I'll get back to that.

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The Halloween Asteroid: 2015 TB145

(From Alex Alishevskikh,; via Flikr and, used w/o permission.)
("Trail of the object that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013."

Asteroid 2015 TB145 won't hit Earth, but it will be only slightly farther from us than the Moon at 1:05 p.m. EDT, 5:05 p.m. UTC, October 31. I've talked about asteroids, Earth Time, and why thinking ahead makes sense, before....

...Fifty years ago, we probably wouldn't have noticed an incoming asteroid until very shortly before it hit. Even if we did, there wouldn't have been much we could do, apart from praying — and that's another topic....

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New Horizons and Ceres

New Horizons will pass by another Kuiper Belt object in January, 2019, if NASA's proposal gets the go-ahead.

Closer to home, Dawn is still sending back data from Ceres: including an image of a very odd-looking mountain....

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Climate Change, Deccan Traps: Still Learning

Scientists found a two-century lag between temperature changes near Earth's poles — and maybe a "bipolar seesaw" temperature cycle.

Other scientists say that shock waves from the Chicxulub impact may have triggered volcanic eruptions in the Deccan Traps and elsewhere....

...We don't, I think, have all the answers about how Earth's climate changes and what we should do about it: but we're discovering what some of the questions are. That's a good start.

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Dawn's Arrival at Ceres; Sims and "Chaos"

Dawn became the first spacecraft to orbit two asteroids or planets other than Earth last week. More to the point, we're learning more about these survivors from the early Solar System.

Meanwhile, from the world of infotainment, "chaos" and the early Solar System....

...Either way, Vesta and Ceres are — most likely — the last remaining large protoplanets: which makes them valuable samples of the early Solar System.

Apart from size and distance from our sun, they're very different: which also makes them intriguing places to study. Scientists have working ideas about how Vesta and Ceres ended up where they are, but those hypotheses may change when we learn more from the Dawn mission.

There's quite a bit of data to work with already, from Dawn's stopover at Vesta....

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Asteroid Readiness, and a SpaceX Test Landing

European officials seem to think that planning about what to do when an asteroid heads their way is a good idea. I think they're right.

A SpaceX cargo run to the International Space Station arrived on time, but the flight's experimental reusable booster didn't land properly. Actually, it crashed....

I started writing about asteroid impacts, which reminded me of ice ages, dodos, and responsibility. This isn't the most tightly-organized post I've ever done.

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Fossils in 2014: Weird Mouth, Feathers, and More

That zipper-faced critter isn't, I think, the weirdest thing that's lived. Not when things that look like lily pads or mushrooms, and may be animals; and other critters with five eyes; are in the running.

That animal with the weird mouth is one of's 'top paleontological discoveries' for 2014.

The discovery of color vision in a 300,000,000-year-old fish came out in late December: which may be why it didn't make the 'top discoveries' list.

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Sagittarius B2, Water, and Asteroid Mining

Scientists have found a complex organic molecule near this galaxy's core; and water vapor in a planet's atmosphere, some 122 light-years away. Closer to home, America's Congress is deliberating on a bill that could allow asteroid mining: if other nations don't get conniptions....

...As usual, I'll explain why I think being human is okay. If you've been here before, feel free to skip to "Organic Molecules in Sagittarius B2," click to something else online, take a coffee break, or whatever....

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Jadeite from Space; a Moon of Mars; and Kepler's New Mission

A century ago, we didn't realize that mountains fall from the sky at irregular intervals. A century from now, we'll probably be mining asteroids. Today, we're learning that there's much more to learn....

...Knowledge and Dominion
(From ESA/Hubble, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
"Today I would like to highlight another gift of the Holy Spirit: the gift of knowledge. When we speak of knowledge, we immediately think of man's capacity to learn more and more about the reality that surrounds him and to discover the laws that regulate nature and the universe. The knowledge that comes from the Holy Spirit, however, is not limited to human knowledge; it is a special gift, which leads us to grasp, through creation, the greatness and love of God and his profound relationship with every creature...."
(Pope Francis, General Audience. (May 21, 2014)) We live in a beautiful, good, ordered universe: surrounded by wonders which had remained unknown until rece…

Lowering Costs on the Earth-to-Orbit Run, Preparing for Incoming Asteroids

Getting scared silly by the latest doomsday prediction is silly. So is ignoring real threats.

(Copyright M. Ahmetvaleev, via NASA News, used w/o permission.)

The Chelyabinsk meteor didn't kill anyone. Only 1,100 or so folks needed medical treatment: for injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to a broken spine. Next time, we may not get off so lightly. Now is a very good time to start getting ready for an incoming asteroid....

...Looking Ahead
(Reaction Engines Limited/Terra Novus, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Reaction Engines Limited's Skylon spaceplane.)

Apart from Space Shuttle fleet, now out of service, and recoverable capsules like Space-X's Dragon, launch vehicles are still a single-use technology. That makes getting into space very expensive.

A decade from now, we'll probably see shipping rates go down: dramatically, I suspect.

Reaction Engines Limited's Skylon is scheduled for a test flight to the International Space Station in 2019. Quite a f…