Scientists to measure spin of near-miss asteroid to help predict future path

February 14, 2013 by Bob Yirka report

(—As most have heard, an asteroid scientists have dubbed 2012 DA14 is set to pass very close to the Earth on Feb 15th—closer than most of the geosynchronous satellites currently in orbit. Because of its proximity, a team of researchers is set to take a novel approach to measure its spin, which should help researchers plot out its future course.

The 150 foot wide , which was discovered just a year ago, will be tracked by a team of researchers led by Michael Busch, of the .

The idea will be to send radio signals in the direction of the asteroid, and then measure the signals that are bounced back. To make that happen, the researchers will beam radio signals from NASA's Goldstone at the asteroid and then listen for reflected signals using two sets of antenna arrays in New Mexico. Because the surface of the asteroid is rough, bounced off of it tend to interfere with one another on the way back—the researchers refer to this as a speckle pattern. By noting which of the antennas in the two arrays used to listen for signals detects the speckling first (this is possible because they are widely spaced) the researchers can work out which way the asteroid is spinning and that can help researches plot out its future course.

An asteroid's spin impacts its course because of the heat from the sun that is reflected off its surface. If the asteroid is spinning in the same direction as its , the heat emission will tend to cause the asteroid to speed up. Conversely, if it's spinning in the opposite direction, it will tend to be slowed. This is known as the . Plotting out the path of the asteroid is important of course, to help scientists discover if the asteroid is likely to strike the earth the next time it comes around. Also, in studying the asteroid and its spin, and making estimates based on evidence gathered, scientists are able to improve their predictive skills regarding the paths of other asteroids which should help in discerning if they are likely to strike the planet in the future.

Explore further: New horseshoe orbit Earth-companion asteroid discovered

Related Stories

New horseshoe orbit Earth-companion asteroid discovered

April 6, 2011

( -- Apostolos Christou and David Asher from the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland announced the discovery of an asteroid near Earth called Asteroid 2010 SO16 and their findings were published on ...

NASA in final preparations for Nov. 8 asteroid flyby

October 27, 2011

( -- NASA scientists will be tracking asteroid 2005 YU55 with antennas of the agency's Deep Space Network at Goldstone, Calif., as the space rock safely flies past Earth slightly closer than the moon's orbit on ...

Whizzing asteroid turns rocket scientists' heads

October 28, 2012

(—International leaders in asteroid and comet research are gathering at the University of Central Florida in Orlando Friday, Feb. 15, for a special "viewing party" that will climax with asteroid 2012 DA14 zipping ...

Getting the right spin on a close-passing asteroid

February 11, 2013

(—The record-setting close approach of an asteroid on Feb. 15 is an exciting opportunity for scientists, and a research team will use National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and NASA telescopes to gain a key ...

Recommended for you

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

Image: Pluto's blue sky

October 9, 2015

Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon ...

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 14, 2013
might this allow for deflecting an impact by using high power ground based lasers at a long distance? I understood the argument against lasers melting the ice was that it would require a laser perpendicular to path of the earth because otherwise it just slows it's speed towards the earth a little but not the direction and point of impact. I think if the asteroid is rotating then any laser applied energy will release the energy on the only the trailing side, which is exactly what you want to change it's path.

Also, just because our society doesn't have the technology ability to change course of asteroid enough to miss our planet, doesn't mean we shouldn't try. If we can, we should nudge it so an impact ground zero location wipes out an uninhabited mountain somewhere instead of new york city.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.