On September 11, 2013 a meteor about the size a Smart Car and weighing about 400 kg, travelling at 38,000 mph vaporized in a brilliant flash as it hit the Moon. This is the longest and brightest confirmed impact flash ever observed on the Moon. The meteor exploded with the equivalent of about 15 tons of TNT and it’s estimated that the resulting crater could be about 40 meters in diameter.
Prof. José M. Madiedo from the University of Huelva in Spain was operating two telescopes that are part of the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS) which monitors the moon’s surface for these events. At 20:07 GMT on September 11, 2013 he witnessed an unusually long and bright flash in Mare Nubium. The event lasted for about 8 seconds as the bright flash slowly faded. Watch the video above for complete details on the MIDAS project and see the actual video of the impact.
The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) planetary science mission is scheduled for launch in September 2016. This is the third mission in the New Frontiers Program, along with Juno and New Horizons. OSIRIS-REx will study and return a sample of asteroid 101955 Bennu to Earth in 2023. Material returned is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the time before the formation and evolution of the Solar System, initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds which led to the formation of life.
After traveling about two years, the spacecraft will rendezvous with asteroid Bennu and start to surface map that object at a distance of approximately 3 miles for about a year and half. Interestingly, the spacecraft will be guided down close enough to Bennu to extend its robotic arm to reach out and collect a sample of the asteroid. That sample will be returned to Earth in a capsule ultimately landing in Utah in 2023. The capsule will then be transported to the Johnson Space Center for processing and research.
You can tag alone with the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Well sort of. NASA and The Planetary Society are inviting you to submit your name for a round-trip ride to asteroid Bennu. Your name will hitch a ride to the asteroid, spend 500 days there, and return in the Sample Return Capsule. Plus your name will be on the spacecraft, which will remain in space long after returning the sample return capsule to Earth. Sound like fun?
Sign up here!
Another asteroid is set to buzz Earth. Is it just me or are these events happening more frequently? The asteroid designated 1998 QE2 will be making it’s close approach to Earth tomorrow (Friday) May 31, 2013.
1998 QE2 is considered a potentially hazardous object because it makes a regular close approach to Earth’s orbit, and it’s a whopper! QE2 is over 1.5 miles across. To help give you a visual reference that’s the equivalent of nine QE2 (Queen Elizabeth 2) cruise ships lined up end to end.
This Friday marks the QE2’s closest approach to Earth for at least a couple a hundred years and even at it’s closest it’ll still be about 15 times farther away than the Moon, but that’s close astronomically speaking.
1998 QE2 will be closest to Earth at 3:59 p.m. CDT. Once it gets dark you can try to located QE2 as it will be visible in small telescopes but you’ll need a dark sky.
NASA has already started imaging the asteroid with massive radar telescopes and they found that 1998 QE2 has a small moon. The preliminary estimate for the size of the asteroid’s satellite, or moon, is approximately 2,000 feet (600 meters) wide.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 was discovered on Aug. 19, 1998, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program near Socorro, N.M.