Dr. David Morrison is the senior scientist at NASA's Astrobiology Institute in the Ames Research Center in California. For the past eight years he's also run the Ask an Astrobiologist feature on the institute's website. "Started by a civic-minded intern, the column has become the go-to place for concerned citizens to write to NASA and ask if, as they'd heard on the internet, the world will truly end on December 21, 2012. Before he took the helm on Ask an Astrobiologist, Dr. Morrison hadn't heard anything about such theories. Now he can't escape them." Meet NASA's unofficial answerer of apocalypse emails -- at least until December 23rd. [more inside]
NASA is designing a spiffy new rocket, the Space Launch System, which will lob people and cargo to the moon, an asteroid and eventually Mars. [more inside]
Jupiter has lots. Mars has some, too, as does Neptune. Turns out Earth's got a trojan asteroid of its own. Meet 2010 TK7, the blue planet's new baby brother.
Dawn spacecraft now orbits asteroid Vesta - After almost 4 years of space travel, the Dawn spacecraft successfully entered orbit around Vesta, an Arizona sized rock. Dawn tweets, takes pictures, and there is a Vesta Fiesta party to celebrate. After hanging out at Vesta for a year, Dawn will head off to visit the Ceres asteroid next, a three year trip. Amazing achievement of engineering, innovation and accuracy.
Most North Americans slept through the morning of January 13, 2010 as near-Earth object (NEO) 2010 AL30 silently moved across the night sky. Most of the time small asteroids zip past Earth harmlessly. We may not meet the goal of detecting and tracking potentially hazardous near-Earth objects . (Previously)
Enough bad news, enough gloom and doom. You remember that Asteroid 99942 Apophis that we were afraid might hit Earth in 2029? Ain't gonna happen. But it will get close enough for Earth's gravity to alter its orbit and there's a chance it could hit the next time around in 2036. But only a tiny chance: "less than 1 in 45,000 using standard dynamical models". according to NASA. Oh wait... NASA just got skooled by a 13-year-old German Astronomy Geek who says the chances are more like 1 in 450. Still a tiny chance, and the official numbers were only off by a factor of 100. Oh yeah, we're doomed.
NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory recently detected [reg required] the largest explosion ever detected in the universe: an eruption releasing the energy of hundreds of millions of gamma ray bursts. Just to put it in perspective, a single GRB releases enough radiation to wipe out just about everything human beings would require for survival in a 1000 light year radius. (The Milky Way spans ~100,000 light years, while the United Federation of Planets spans about 8,000). Arthur C. Clarke has gone so far as suggesting that GRBs might be one of the reasons for Extra-Terrestrial silence: Gamma Ray Bursts are so large and inescapable, a single one would wipe out even an enormous galactic empire. Makes killer asteroids seem downright quaint.
We should get to know our nearest neighbors. Especially when some are potentially hazardous. We've blown a kiss to 433 Eros and she has revealed some of her secrets.
Singing the holiday blues? Its quite a common affliction. Nothing like a collective brush with death however, to put stuff all back into the proper perspective.
Armageddon in 30 years? Okay, so maybe hyped up a bit, but there's a 1:500 chance that whatever's out there might hit us. For now scientists don't know if it's really an asteroid, or just some leftover shuttle parts. [via SlashDot]