What a Dusty Solar System We Have! Here’s What Astronomers Found Hiding in the Mess

For several years, astronomers have known that rings of dust follow the planets Earth and Venus in their journeys around the Sun. Researchers have now found a similar ring of dust also accompanies Mercury in its orbit, much to the surprise of astronomers, who believed any system like this would be driven away by the Sun. Our own ring is produced by collisions between bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, but computer simulations have shown the ring bonded with Venus is likely the result of a previously-unknown asteroid belt around the orbit of that planet.

Read More What a Dusty Solar System We Have! Here’s What Astronomers Found Hiding in the Mess
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Want to Blow Up an Asteroid? It’s Harder than You Think

Science fiction is filled with stories of astronauts blowing up asteroids just before they strike the Earth. But, doing so could be even worse than doing nothing, as fragments of these bodies could impact the Earth in multiple locations, like a shotgun blast. Now, new research from Johns Hopkins University shows even attempting to blow up an asteroid might prove futile. Computer models of impacts between two asteroids show that such events would likely result in short-term fragmenting of the bodies, but these pieces would come together again within hours, recreating a mass much like the original asteroid. Researchers are on the lookout for asteroids and comets heading toward the Earth that could endanger areas from small cities to the entire planet.

Read More Want to Blow Up an Asteroid? It’s Harder than You Think

Did Global Warming Kill off the Dinosaurs?

Most dinosaurs were wiped out 66 million years ago, but scientists are still trying to piece together exactly what caused their demise. An asteroid, at least as large as Mount Everest, struck the Earth at that time, likely leading to the extinction of all non-avian dinosaurs. However, new research suggests that volcanic activity at Deccan Traps in India may have doomed the animals before the asteroid struck off the coast of Mexico. A series of four massive pulses of eruptions there released enough lava to build a ring one mile thick and five miles across that would encircle the globe. These events also released vast quantities of poisonous gas into the atmosphere, and created extreme global warming, raising temperatures worldwide. This climate change may have weakened the line of dinosaurs so much, they were unable to withstand the additional climate change which happened once the asteroid hit the Earth.

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Asteroid AX8 Skims Earth as NASA Prepares Plans to Save Planet from Future Threats

On the night of Monday, January 21st, asteroid 2019 AX8 passed 6.9 million kilometers (or 4.3 million miles) from the Earth, after first being seen just two weeks before. The asteroid measured between 28 and 63 meters (equivalent to 92 to 207 feet) across, roughly half the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza. To face threats like this one, NASA is planning to launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (called DART) in 2022, in an effort to change the course of such a body. The rocket will collide with the asteroid Didymos B, the smaller of two asteroids which orbit each other. This test will be the first-ever attempt to redirect an asteroid.

Read More Asteroid AX8 Skims Earth as NASA Prepares Plans to Save Planet from Future Threats

OSIRIS-REx Arrives at the Asteroid Bennu – Tucson and the World Celebrates

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at the asteroid Bennu on December 3rd. This mission will return samples from this body to the Earth for study by researchers. Bennu was discovered in 1999, and this carbon-rich asteroid is believed to be older than the solar system. Researchers hope the mission will help teach us more about the ancient solar system and the formation of life on Earth. The sample material is scheduled to land in the desert of Utah in the year 2023. This is the first U.S. mission to land on an asteroid.

Read More OSIRIS-REx Arrives at the Asteroid Bennu – Tucson and the World Celebrates

JAXA Lands Two Hopping Rovers on Asteroid – See the First Picture

The Japanese space agency JAXA has landed two small hopping rovers on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. These rovers are each seven inches in diameter, and will explore the asteroid by hopping around its surface. Each 50-foot hop will take 15 minutes to complete, due to the extremely weak gravity on the body. These will be followed by two other landers, and the orbiter itself will collect samples of Ryugu to return to Earth in 2020.

Read More JAXA Lands Two Hopping Rovers on Asteroid – See the First Picture

Is Planet Nine Hiding at the Edge of the Solar System?

Planet Nine could exist at the most distant reaches of our solar system, according to observations of the orbits of far-flung objects. This theoretical world would be 10 times as massive as Earth, and take between 10 and 20,000 years to orbit the Sun. However, such a planet would be so dark and distant that some astronomers speculate it may be 1,000 years before we discover it.

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110 Years After Tunguska, Astronomers Ready a New Telescope to Search for Threatening Asteroids from Space

Astronomers are building a new telescope designed to search for asteroids which could threaten the Earth. Called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, this new observatory under construction in Chile is expected to find 65 percent of the objects which could threaten our home world. It was 110 years ago when an object from space caused a massive blast in Siberia which flattened trees in an area 2,000 square kilometers in size.

Read More 110 Years After Tunguska, Astronomers Ready a New Telescope to Search for Threatening Asteroids from Space

Asteroid 2015 BZ509 may have joined Our Family of Planets from an Alien Solar System

An asteroid orbiting backwards around the Sun may have come from another solar system, according to astronomers in France.
Asteroid 2015 BZ509 is roughly two miles across, and orbits the Sun at roughly the same distance as Jupiter. Computer simulations suggest the object may have joined our planetary family four-and-a-half billion years ago, just as the Earth and other planets were being formed.

Read More Asteroid 2015 BZ509 may have joined Our Family of Planets from an Alien Solar System