Near-miss asteroid will return next year

Mar 16, 2012
In this plot, the asteroid is the yellow dot, and Earth is green; the two orbits intersect twice per year. A preliminary orbit calculation shows that 2012 DA14 has a very Earth-like orbit with a period of 366.24 days, just one more day than our terrestrial year, and it ‘jumps’ inside and outside of the path of Earth two times per year. While an impact with Earth has been ruled out on the asteroid’s next visit, astronomers will use that close approach for more studies and calculate the Earth and Moon’s gravitational effects on it. Credits: Deimos-Space

(PhysOrg.com) -- When it whizzes past Earth in 2013, a newly discovered asteroid is going to miss our planet – but not by much. The 50 m space rock is expected to come closer than many satellites, highlighting the growing need to keep watch on hazards from above.

An amateur team discovered the unusual , dubbed 2012 DA14, on 22 February. Its small size and orbit meant that it was spotted only after it had flown past Earth at about seven times the distance of the Moon.

However, current predictions indicate that on its next flyby, due on 15 February 2013, it will pass Earth at just 24 000 km – closer than many commercial satellites.

"This is a safe distance, but it is still close enough to make the asteroid visible in normal binoculars," says Detlef Koschny, responsible for near-earth objects in ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) office.  

Astronomers in Spain spot 'slippery target'

The asteroid was discovered by the La Sagra Sky Survey observatory, in the southeast of Spain, near Granada, at an altitude of 1700 m, one of the darkest, least light-polluted locations on the European mainland.

"Considering its path in the morning sky, its rather fast angular motion, the quite faint and fading brightness and its orbit high above the plane of Earth’s orbit, it was a slippery target – and easily could have escaped undetected during this Earth visit," says Jaime Nomen, one of the discoverers.

Near-miss asteroid will return next year
Asteroid 2012 DA14

The team use several automated telescopes to scan the sky, and the discovery came somewhat serendipitously after they decided to search areas of the sky where asteroids are not usually seen.

"A preliminary orbit calculation shows that 2012 DA14 has a very Earth-like orbit with a period of 366.24 days, just one more day than our terrestrial year, and it 'jumps' inside and outside of the path of Earth two times per year," says Jaime.

While an impact with Earth has been ruled out on the asteroid’s next visit, astronomers will use that close approach for more studies and calculate the Earth and Moon’s gravitational effects on it.

"We will also be keen to see the asteroid’s resulting orbit after the next close approach in order to compute any future risk of impact," says Detlef.

Half a million undiscovered objects

The La Sagra Sky Survey is operated by the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca and has recently joined ESA’s SSA programme. In the future it will provide observations to the asteroid data hub that ESA is developing.

Together with information on space weather and debris, its information will help European scientists and policy-makers understand and assess hazards, particularly if an Earth-threatening asteroid is ever found.

The discovery of 2012 DA14 is particularly significant for the Agency’s SSA office, because it is typical of the estimated half a million undiscovered near-Earth objects up to 30 m across.

"We are developing a system of automated optical telescopes that can detect asteroids just like this one, with the goal of being able spot them at least three weeks before closest approach to ," says Detlef.

To achieve this, ESA specialists supported by European industry are planning a network of 1 m-diameter telescopes with a combined field of view large enough to image the complete sky in one night.

The work is continuing under the Agency’s Space Situational Awareness Preparatory Program.

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thomasmc
4.2 / 5 (6) Mar 16, 2012
At least it will give the paranoid schizophrenics something to hyperventilate about when the world doesn't end on Dec. 12, 2012.
duncombemu
1 / 5 (3) Mar 17, 2012
thomasmc,

Look up what 'normalcy bias' means. You may learn something.
Probably 'things' will not happen/change on Dec. 12 2012, but they will sometime soon. We don't need a worldwide disaster, a local disaster, earthquake/tsunami, economic downturn (US dollar collapse), terrorist attack, EMP (from space or from earth), or disease, to be a 'paranoid schizophrenic' (as you put it) to realize what would happen then. For example, look what's happening to the US dollar. If it fails and it's well on the way to, then everything will change as we know it. The problem is if something really bad wipes out 1000's of people (maybe millions), then no one will be able to tell YOU, "See it did happen", because the people that think like you, the ones not prepared, won't be around to say anything. You will be with all the others that believed, 'because it's never happened before, that it won't happen'. It certainly doesn't 'hurt' to prepare yourself, you have nothing to loose.
Kindest,
Mark
Aust.
rwinners
1 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2012
This might be a very good target for an early attempt at 'moving' the trajectory of an asteroid permanently out of the path of earth.
As an aside, I wonder if it is a lasting remnant of the formation of the earth/moon system.
BuddyEbsen
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 21, 2012
Capture and store at L1, mine for fuel and water.
rwinners
not rated yet Mar 21, 2012
That would take a lot of energy, Buddy. Or.. a little energy over a long period of time.
Personally, I think first things first. Just nudge the trajectory so it ends up further from our intersection orbits.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 21, 2012
This might be a very good target for an early attempt at 'moving' the trajectory of an asteroid permanently out of the path of earth

Erm...how about: no...?
Do you have any idea what it takes to put a mission in orbit (let alone far enough out to rendevouz with this thing). A decade's worth preplanning, design and construction. Minimum.

Capture and store at L1, mine for fuel and water.

Why? And who's gonna put the millions of tonnes of fuel to slow this sucker down into orbit? And how?

Seriously, people: Stop watching SciFi movies(or listening to Gingrich spout lunacies) and start reading/understanding real science.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2012
As of March 17, 2012, the odds of impact on 2020-Feb-16 are 1 in 53,000. With an estimated diameter of about 45 meters and an estimated mass of about 120,000 metric tons, it is estimated that it would produce the equivalent of 2.4 megatons of TNT at the case of impact. For comparison, the Tunguska event has been estimated at 320 megatons.
Estevan57
2.3 / 5 (19) Mar 21, 2012
"24 000 km" WOW! Pretty close. Lets vote on someone for it to land on.
rwinners
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 21, 2012
"Erm...how about: no...?
Do you have any idea what it takes to put a mission in orbit (let alone far enough out to rendevouz with this thing). A decade's worth preplanning, design and construction. Minimum."

And? Why not? Actually, I doubt your time table. We have already landed on an asteroid. And, this one comes around very regularly. It can be a 5 year project... or ten.
I think it would be better to have a clear understanding of how to do this before it becomes highly necessary for the survival of a significant number of us.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2012
Landing and on and moving an asteroid (let alone to a designated spot and putting it there) somewhere are two (three) VERY different things.

Something that has significant relative speed and is close to Earth is actually more difficult to rendezvous with than something further off (because then you can use bodies with large masses like Jupiter for swing-by maneouvers to get you ponited in the right direction and at the right speed)

We have already landed on an asteroid. And, this one comes around very regularly. It can be a 5 year project... or ten

Yes, we have already landed on an asteroid. Hayabusa probe. Check out how long it took from first concept to finally getting there. First ideas for such a mission go back to 1986.

Spaceflight is not: "Here's a target. Let's strap an engine to a waching machine and go"
BuddyEbsen
3 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2012
Why? And who's gonna put the millions of tonnes of fuel to slow this sucker down into orbit? And how?


You have a pretty poor understanding of physics if you think it takes millions of tonnes of fuel to move a hundred thousand tonnes of asteroid over a period of months. I would suggest something simpler like an ion drive, but I think a fully fueled second stage of a Falcon 9 could probably do it. You don't need to bring it to a full stop, just adjust the orbit into a capture path, i.e. nudge it to where earth's gravity can make the big change to alter its orbit.
antialias_physorg
3.3 / 5 (3) Mar 22, 2012
The Falcon rocket (or any other rocket) is basically out of fuel once it reaches orbit. So that won't help any. You could pack some fuel in the payload - which is about 4.5 tonnes for this scenario. So let's do the math, shall we?

The asteroid travels at roughly 8km a second relative to the Earth.
Mass is estimated 120000 metric tons

Kinetic Energy of this sucker relative to Earth is:
0.5 * 120000000kg * (8000 m/s) * (8000 m/s)
which comes out to
3 840 000 000 000 000 Joules (or 3.84 PetaJoules)

To park it in a Lagrange Point you have to bring it to relative rest with Earth (i.e. you have to reduce relative kinetic energy to zero)

LO2-LH2 (best rocket fuel) contains about 15 MegaJoules per kg of energy.

After crunching the numbers I find you'd need about 50 thousand (!) rocket launches to get enough fuel into orbit for this stunt (and we haven't even talked about the tanks, and the craft that is connected to the tanks, ...)
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2012
If you want to get it into orbit you would need less. Maybe only ten thousand launches (and a vehicle, and assembly facilities in orbit, and, and, and ...)

But I think ten thousand launches to get a piece of unknown rock is
a) not feasible within the next couple of years
b) not economically sensible - even at the reasonably priced 56 million dollars per launch.
BuddyEbsen
3 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2012
You fail to understand that the asteroid is practically in the correct orbit now, it just needs a slight adjustment for capture. Its already in a 366-day orbit, in almost the same orbital plane as the earth. It only needs a slight nudge to get it to fall into an earth-orbit. If its too hard to get it to a Lagrange point, so be it, at least its within reach for study and exploitation.

The moon is currently at 1 km/s relative to the earth, I guess we would need a ridiculous amount of energy to capture it... oh wait it already is!

Oh, and you ignored my ion drive idea I see.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2012
Ion drives take...forever...to get this amount of energy out.

The best we have tested is a VASIMIR drive which puts out about 200kW. You have any idea how long one thruster would take to output a total of 3.84 PetaJoules? Even if we have to overcome only one km/second speed difference for insertion into orbit we're still talking 50 TeraJoules worth.

That's (using one thruster): 250 million seconds (about 240 years)

You'd have to attach 250 thrusters (plus the fuel for this) to insert this thing within a year into Earth orbit (or 25 and have enough fuel for each to operate 10 years continuously)

That's 25 launches for the thruster-craft plus umpteen launches for the fuel. For what? A piece of rock 44 meters in diameter? (For comparison: That's about a pile of rubble a sixth the volume of the great pyramid of egypt).
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2012
This thing would have to be made of solid gold to make that economically sensible.

Listen. It's nice to think about these things - but we have to be realistic about our current technological capabilities and the sizes/energies involved here.
You may downvote me because you don't like the hard, cold facts - but that doesn't alter the facts.
BuddyEbsen
1 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2012
I still reject your basic assumption - that there is a huge delta-v required to put this thing into earth orbit. Your numbers are all based on a huge change in momentum, whereas I see a small change in vector being all that is required. One or both of us could be wrong, but there is no need to pull such ridiculous numbers out of thin air to make your point, without regard to other possibilities.

Yes its a small amount of material. But its value is much greater than gold as far as an opportunity for learning, as well as the fact that usable materials in orbit are worth far more than on Earth.

My last word on this is we should do these things "not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win"
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2012
usable materials in orbit are worth far more than on Earth.

How so?

a) We don't know if there's anything usable in that piece of rock
b) 44 meters diameter isn't exactly a lot of material - even if it's all usable 120000tonnes is about 3 days worth of oil production (or much less than one day's worth of all mining/extraction going on on the planet)

Landing. Taking samples: Yes. Insertion into orbit or orbital (or asteroid) mining? That's just plain stupid given present technological abilities and costs (or even if you'd bring down costs for such endeavours by a factor of 100).

We should focus on things we can accomplish for now and wait until the tech is ripe. Not build castles in the sky.

I still reject your basic assumption - that there is a huge delta-v

One kilometer per second is not a 'huge' delta v.

NASA gives the relative speed as 8.1km/sec
At the distance it'll approach (in 2013) orbital speed is 5.43km/sec. So we'd need to adjust by 2.67km/sec
BuddyEbsen
3 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2012
OK, you got me to post one more; orbital speed at LEO is 7.8 km/s. So we'd need to adjust angle by thousandths of a degree, delta-v by 0.3 km/s. If the approach angle is correct, the Earth itself can apply the course correction via gravity, or contact with the atmosphere.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 22, 2012
Do the math on that. Still WAY too expensive.

Apart from that it's near terminally crazy. Do we really want such a rock in LEO? LEO means: there's still wisps of atmosphere there. So either we continually boost it or it drops on us eventually.

And no: A 44m diameter rock is NOT going to fully evaporate on the way down
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 24, 2012
Just found this neat graphic. Shows you how far that sucker will be from us and how impossible to reach with anything besides a small probe (scroll carefully..it's on there).
http://www.bbc.co...ographic
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (9) Mar 24, 2012
Why is it that only otto seems to respect the opinions of experts around here?

-Wrapping the asteroid in a sheet of reflective plastic such as aluminized PET film as a solar sail
-"Painting" or dusting the object with titanium dioxide (white) or soot (black) to alter its trajectory via the Yarkovsky effect.
-Eugene Shoemaker in 1996 proposed deflecting a potential impactor by releasing a cloud of steam in the path of the object, hopefully gently slowing it. Nick Szabo in 1990 sketched a similar idea, "cometary aerobraking", the targeting of a comet or ice construct at an asteroid, then vaporizing the ice with nuclear explosives to form a temporary atmosphere in the path of the asteroid.
-Attaching a tether and ballast mass to the asteroid to alter its trajectory by changing its center of mass.
-Laser ablation
-Magnetic Flux Compression

-And why is it that antialias does not seem to appreciate that a little energy over a long period equals a lot of energy over a short period?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (7) Mar 24, 2012
Also:
http://www.physor...ion.html

-Use GOOGLE to find others.

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