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

Feb 14, 2013 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org)—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: First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Getting the right spin on a close-passing asteroid

Feb 11, 2013

(Phys.org)—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 ...

New horseshoe orbit Earth-companion asteroid discovered

Apr 06, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 ...

NASA in final preparations for Nov. 8 asteroid flyby

Oct 27, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 ...

Whizzing asteroid turns rocket scientists' heads

Oct 28, 2012

(Phys.org)—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 ...

Recommended for you

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

2 hours ago

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

18 hours ago

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

How many moons does Venus have?

Apr 23, 2014

There are dozens upon dozens of moons in the Solar System, ranging from airless worlds like Earth's Moon to those with an atmosphere (most notably, Saturn's Titan). Jupiter and Saturn have many moons each, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ODesign
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.

More news stories

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

Professional and amateur astronomers join forces

(Phys.org) —Long before the term "citizen science" was coined, the field of astronomy has benefited from countless men and women who study the sky in their spare time. These amateur astronomers devote hours ...

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

New breast cancer imaging method promising

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Research proves nanobubbles are superstable

The intense research interest in surface nanobubbles arises from their potential applications in microfluidics and the scientific challenge for controlling their fundamental physical properties. One of the ...

Using antineutrinos to monitor nuclear reactors

When monitoring nuclear reactors, the International Atomic Energy Agency has to rely on input given by the operators. In the future, antineutrino detectors may provide an additional option for monitoring. ...