NASA radar images asteroid 2007 PA8

Nov 06, 2012
This composite image of asteroid 2007 PA8 was obtained using data taken by NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif. The composite incorporates images generated from data collected at Goldstone on Oct. 28, 29, and 30, 2012. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Gemini

(Phys.org)—Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., have obtained several radar images depicting near-Earth asteroid 2007 PA8. The images were generated from data collected at Goldstone on Oct. 28, 29 and 30, 2012. The asteroid's distance from Earth on Oct. 28 was 6.5 million miles (10 million kilometers). The asteroid's distance to Earth was 5.6 million miles (9 million kilometers) on Oct. 30. The perspective in the images is analogous to seeing the asteroid from above its north pole. Each of the three images is shown at the same scale.

The of asteroid 2007 PA8 indicate that it is an elongated, irregularly shaped object approximately one mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, with ridges and perhaps craters. The data also indicate that 2007 PA8 rotates very slowly, roughly once every three to four days.

JPL scientists chose to image asteroid 2007 PA8 due to its size and relative proximity to Earth at the point of closest approach. On Nov. 5 at 8:42 a.m. PST (11:42 a.m. EST /16:42 UTC), the was about four million miles (6.5 million kilometers) from Earth, or 17 times the distance between Earth and the moon. The trajectory of asteroid 2007 PA8 is well understood. This flyby was the closest Earth approach by this asteroid for at least the next 200 years. NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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User comments : 5

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VendicarD
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 06, 2012
With Republicans plotting to cut U.S. federal spending by 2/3 rds or more, one wonders how NASA will be funded during the resulting Grand Economic Depression.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2012
With Republicans plotting to cut U.S. federal spending by 2/3 rds or more, one wonders how NASA will be funded during the resulting Grand Economic Depression


Wow, what a troll.

approximately one mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, with ridges and perhaps craters. The data also indicate that 2007 PA8 rotates very slowly, roughly once every three to four days


This demonstrates the difficulty in doing anything usefull with an asteroid, such as mining one. I think we will eventually, but technical challenges are abundant.

1st, they move fast and even 17 times the distance to the moon is a vast distance to cover, though relatively close by space standards.

2nd, this thing is too big to attempt to re-direct it with any current technology, so not a chance to park it in a 'nice' orbit.

3rd, it's too small to have significant gravity. That makes working on it difficult.

4th, they are irregularly shaped and rotate, so dangerous to approach.
GSwift7
2 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2012
Continued:

5th, very few of these objects are in orbits that we can intercept. Most people do not realize that our current technology is not capable of matching the orbit of just anything we want, within a reasonable budget at least. Just about anything that does not orbit parallel to the ecliptic is out of reach, as well as most things with highly elongated orbits.

The main belt asteroids are easier to meet up with, but they are really far away. That's why current plans are focused on near earth asteroids, but only a very short list of potential candidates that happen to have accessible orbits. Even with those few object, the timing is tricky. Some only have a once in a lifetime window of opportunity.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2012
Most people do not realize that our current technology is not capable of matching the orbit of just anything we want

At least with the massive amount of gear that a mining operation would require. Small probes? They could probably match most anything in the solar system given enough time.

But for mining operations we're not talking about a probe with masses of a few (hundred) kg.
We'd be talking (kilo)-tons worth of equipment.
GSwift7
4 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2012
At least with the massive amount of gear that a mining operation would require. Small probes? They could probably match most anything in the solar system given enough time


Well, if you have a big enough budget to assemble multi-stage boosters in earth orbit using multiple launch vehicles, then you can rendevous with just about anything, but you would need to design something like that from scratch. For the majority of NEO's the off-the-shelf boster systems just don't have the fuel capacity to get into a matching orbit. You can send something on a ballistic crash course or fly-by course easily enough, but matching the vector of one of these things isn't that easy, especially if it's a highly oblique orbit. Without having a planet in just the right spot at just the right time to slingshot around, changing your vector at 40,000 mph isn't easy. Even with a small probe, the mass of the engines and fuel/fuel tank would be problematic. Return trip? Even worse.