Mini Moon


Ponder this image – Earth is the blue dot, white circle is the Moon’s orbit, red squiggle is space object 2020 SO. Using the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Maui, Hawaii astronomers sighted the object September 17, 2020 on approach to Earth, classifying it as an asteroid.

Graphic showing swooping and swirling incoming path of 2020 SO.

From https://earthsky.org/space/2020-so-mini-moon-asteroid-or-space-junk -“Asteroid or space junk? Strange space object 2020 SO was discovered on September 17, 2020 on approach to Earth. It’ll likely be captured by Earth, briefly becoming a mini-moon. In this image, the Earth is the blue dot in the center. The moon’s orbit is the white circle. Image via Tony Dunn (@tony873004 on Twitter”

From October 2020 until May 2021 approaching space object 2020 SO will briefly become a “mini” Earth orbiting Moon, courtesy low speed and trajectory being no match for Earth’s gravitational pull. Measuring 6 – 14 meters, 2020 SO will soon pass between Earth and the Moon at a speed of 3,025 km/h – in cosmic terms that’s remarkably slow. Slow enough to raise eyebrows when coupled with calculation of a 387 day Earth-like orbit of the Sun. Peculiarities suggesting a man made object launched from our planet.

Astronomers suspect asteroid 2020 SO could be the Surveyor 2 rocket booster launched on September 20, 1966. Surveyor 2 was a un-manned mission sending a second lunar lander to the Moon. Surveyor 2 left Cape Kennedy, Florida atop a Atlas Centaur rocket. Three days later a course correction failure caused mission control to lose contact. Unable to recover, Surveyor 2 lander crashed near the Moon’s Copernicus Crater.

Before the modern era of reusable rockets losing sight of one wasn’t unusual. Space archeologist Alice Gorman of Flinders University in Australia said –

“There are so many factors in the space environment, like gravitational factors and other things that affect movement, that it can sometimes be quite unpredictable.

You have to keep tracking these things, or you can just sort of lose sight of them really easily. And if they do something a little bit unpredictable, and you look the wrong way, then you don’t know where it’s gone. It is quite astonishing, the number of things that have gone missing.”

220px-Surveyor_2_launch.jpg (220×283)
Surveyor 2 launch September 20, 1966

Space is a busy place chock full of small asteroids and man made junk. Gravity isn’t shy about capturing temporary mini moons. Most recently – 2006 RH120 caught in Earth orbit between 2006 – 2007 and 2020 CD3, 2018 – 2020. Time will tell whether 2020 SO is asteroid or space junk. I’m hoping for space junk. Strikes me as very satisfying to welcome a mini moon launched in 1966.

Asteroid 2014 YB35


On Friday March 27, asteroid 2014 YB35 passes our planet at a distance of nearly four and a half million Kilometers. No small rock, YB35’s estimated girth of 750 meters or so, likely accounts for news stories and internet chatter of “NASA on high alert” and “near miss” hysteria.

http://www.inquisitr.com/1954895/nasa-on-alert-as-huge-asteroid-2014-yb35-set-to-make-close-earth-approach-at-23000-mph-on-friday/

As of today, 1563 such objects grace the PHA (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid) roster. A PHA is any space object orbiting within 100 LD (1 Lunar Distance being the distance between Earth and the Moon) and large enough to make it through our atmosphere. 2014 YB35 will pass at 11.6 LD.

I’ve spent the last while pondering why sporadic asteroid buzz annoys me so much. As someone who pays attention to these things, a person devoting countless hours and energy in hope others start paying attention – reality dictates most won’t give it a second thought after Friday. The 1908 Tunguska event over Siberia – 2000 square Kilometers of forest obliterated by a asteroid estimated at 50 meters across, one that vaporized without making impact. Pondering Tunguska makes me grumpy. Intermittent excitement because something is large – tweeted today, forgotten tomorrow.

In conclusion, relax – 2014 YB35 is more “just another day” than “high alert” at NASA’s office. Statistically speaking, true “high alert” days are unavoidable – no different from catastrophic earthquakes and climate changing volcanic eruptions. Maybe I’m odd, rather than fret about probability in my lifetime or that of my children, I choose to learn all I can with detached interest. Go figure.

2004 BL86 Has a Moon!


Vancouver fog obliterated any hope of catching a glimpse of asteroid 2004 BL86. No worries, NASA had me covered. Radar images from NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California revealed BL86 has its own moon. Yep, its very own little moon about 70 meters across. Oh man, I’m grinning like a fool. Check out the earthsky link below NASA’s video clip…

http://earthsky.org/space/asteroid-that-flew-past-earth-january-26-2015-has-a-moon?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=bbd0eaf8a0-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-bbd0eaf8a0-393970565

2004 BL86 Encounter


Get out your binoculars – the evening of January 26/27 arrives with asteroid 2004 BL86.  A measly 3 LD (three times the distance from Earth to the Moon), and walloping 650-950 meters across – 2004 BL86 will safely pass, no cause for alarm, and barely noticed. Not to be seen  again for 200 years – at the very least gaze skyward, and thank the cosmos for another near miss.

http://earthsky.org/space/asteroid-2004-bl86-to-sweep-close-on-january-26

 

Where Did You Come From 2014 AA?


It’s no secret I check space weather every day; solar wind, chance of flares, active sun spots, list of PHA (potentially harmful asteroid) in the next few months. My eyes settled on 2014 AA, Jan.2, 2014, .001 LD  (1 LD = the distance from earth to the moon), 3 meters. Holy crap – this wasn’t here yesterday. Where did you come from 2014 AA? It seems I needn’t have bothered trying to calculate what .001 of 384,000 Kms. was, 2014 AA entered our atmosphere around midnight EST. Believed to have burned up over the Atlantic, somewhere off the east coast of Africa.

This rogue little space rock hadn’t even been discovered until New Years Day, 24 hours later it slams into our atmosphere. Another nugget of information presented itself – this is only the second time astronomers spotted an asteroid before it hit our atmosphere. The first time in 2008 when 2008 TC3 burned up over the Sudan, and coincidentally TC 3 wasn’t discovered until the day before impact.

http://earthsky.org/earth/small-asteroid-entered-our-atmosphere-just-hours-ago

There isn’t a lot any of us can do about falling space junk; I’m not pacing the floor, fretting about a doomsday asteroid. There isn’t much we could do about a sudden, unexpected projectile hurtling towards our planet. That said, I was truly shocked to learn only two asteroids have ever been detected before hitting our atmosphere. Currently spaceweather lists 1488 PHA’s ranging from a few meters to Km’s in width. Gravity and its pull, orbits, and trajectories are fickle, I’d be a much happier ponderer if we put a little more effort into more than 24 hours notice.

Image – skyandtelescope.com

Hey DA14, Meet Apophis


On Feb. 15, comet DA14 will come within 21,000 miles of earth. In cosmic terms; close enough to hear it whiz by. While not particularly large, at 150 odd feet, it could do considerable damage. Remember – a beach ball sized meteor could make a crater almost 20 feet deep and over 60 feet wide. There is no chance DA14 will collide with earth, at least not this time around.

Countless close calls populate our fragile existence. On April 13, 2029 Comet Apophis, at well over 500 feet; will come within a projected 19,400 miles of earth. This one is large enough to obliterate a major city In November of this year comet ISON;  not close  at 2 million miles, yet shining many times brighter than the full moon; will dazzle the naked eye.

I wish more of us pondered the cosmos. Governed by nothing but science; physics is the universal God. The United Nations itself, mandates that celestial bodies are for the benefit of all mankind Unfettered by politics, God, or back room handshakes; the universe is free to operate purely on science. No doubt the concept is lost on fundamentalists; the irony being that it could quite possibly be a space rock that bites us in the ass one day.

As we squabble like grade schoolers on the playground, squander our resources, and  throw tantrums over religious righteousness – a big ass space rock strikes me as poetic justice. Not a punishment from God; simply a cosmic spanking, unleashed when orbits eventually collide.

2012 DA 14 on February 15, 2013


On February 15th breathe a sigh of relief as asteroid 2012 DA14 miraculously passes us by. No need to worry about a collision, this one will be close but harmless. When I say close, I mean really, really close. The moon is around 240,000 miles away, DA14 will pass an estimated 21,000 miles from earth. In cosmic terms, this is about as close a call as you get.

DA14 is only about 150 feet wide; certainly nothing like the KT asteroid that is suspected of wiping out the dinosaurs. The trouble with asteroids is that they move so fast, even a little rock can be cataclysmic. In 1908 an asteroid about the same size is suspected of smashing into Siberia. Known as the Tunguska Comet it pancaked miles of forest and killed herds of reindeer. Had it found a city, the bad day would have been epic.

http://earthsky.org/space/asteroid-2012-da14-will-pass-very-close-to-earth-in-2013

We tend to forget  our fragile existence. Far from suggesting we fret over cosmic calamities; my only hope is at some point it will sink in that squandering our lives is rather absurd. I’ll cut some slack on the 20 something crowd, but for those years we would all be dull. Beyond that – I say; no excuses.

Look at the stars, plant a garden, try making bread simply because it smells so good while baking, send a hand written letter before you forget what cursive writing is, travel – understand the world can not be seen from an all inclusive resort or cruise ship, better yet – take a road trip. Vow to never “tweet” about celebrities – ever again! Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, and realize it doesn’t matter how much money you make.

The Mayan calendar silliness should have taught us something. Asteroids whiz by; DA14 a little close for comfort, but no different from talk of the long overdue Yellowstone super volcano or anticipated mega quakes. We have one shot at life, there are no “do overs”, what a waste of time to spend it poorly.

Asteroid, Meteor, Meteorite


An asteroid is a solid chunk of space debris orbiting the sun; made of rock and metals it is considered inactive. Comets on the other hand can be quite active. Composed mainly of ice and smaller rocks, the “tail” we see is dust and gasses released from the ice by the sun’s energy. Meteoroids happen when asteroids collide; breaking into smaller pieces, or when the heat of the sun releases debris from a comet. A meteoroid that burns up in our atmosphere is called a meteor. If it makes impact; it becomes a meteorite.

A meteorite the size of a beach ball would make a crater over 60 feet wide and almost 20 feet deep. The blast wave would flatten trees and kill any living thing within a mile of impact.

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch/fastfacts.cfm

Scientists consider anything under 100 LD (1 LD = distance from earth to the moon) a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). As of today there are 1366 PHA’s being monitored. On Feb. 15, 2013 DA14 – 57 metres, will pass between us and the moon at .9 LD. Behemoths like 3752 Camillo – 3.4 Km., and 1993 UC – 3.8 Km. will sail by on Feb. 12 and March 20 at 57.5 and 49 LD respectively.

There’s no sense in losing sleep over space junk; we can’t really do anything about it. Though reading my post on cosmic paintball is an interesting theory to ponder. Instead; thank your lucky stars the next time you wish on a falling star that it was a meteor and not a meteorite.

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/?s=cosmic+paintball

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=+asteroid+and+meteorite+damage&view=detail&id=EE5958330CC1B58EE857D0D0FB7B4B3A79AAD83C&first=221