Over 65 million years ago, an asteroid some 10 km (6 mi) wide crashed into the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. Strangely, the legacy of this huge space rock could include a treatment for cancer after scientists from the UK and China demonstrated that iridium – a rare metal delivered to Earth by the asteroid – can be enlisted to kill cancer without harming healthy cells.
A Chinese spacecraft has carried out a deep space fly-by on an asteroid four and a half million miles away from the Earth.
The Chang’e-2 probe successfully conducted the mission to scan the surface of the asteroid Toutatis.
It happened on December 13 at 16.30om Beijing Time, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense announced today.
The Chinese space probe flew got around two miles away from the asteroid Toutatis, officials said
At 2.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, astronomers say it is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid because it makes repeated passes by the Earth, about every four years.
In comparison, the asteroid that is thought to have destroyed the dinosaurs was approximately 10 km (6 miles) wide.
The flyby was the first time an unmanned spacecraft launched from Earth has taken such a close viewing of the asteroid, named after a Celtic god.
China followed in the footsteps of the U.S., the European Union and Japan by using an spacecraft to examine an asteroid.
Chang’e-2 came as close as 2 miles from Toutatis and took pictures of the asteroid at a relative velocity of 10.73km per second, the SASTIND said in a statement.
Sources with the administration told the Xinhua news agency that Chang’e-2 is continuing its deep space travel and will reach a distance of more than six million miles away from Earth in January next year.
Chang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center and later orbited the moon in a more ambitious mission than its predecessor Chang’e-1.
Chang’e-2 left its lunar orbit for an extended mission to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point on June 9, 2011, after finishing its lunar objectives, which collected data for a complete lunar map.
Here is a graphic showing the moment the spacecraft passed within two miles of the asteroid Toutatis
Chang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Here is mission control
China claims it was the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis, although other space missions have pictured it
The probe departed from L2 this year and began its mission to Toutatis.
Since its blast-off, Chang’e 2 has become the first to capture full coverage map of the moon with a resolution of seven meters.
China claims it was also the first object ever to reach the L2 point directly from lunar orbit; and being the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis.
China early this year published a full coverage map of the moon, as well as several high-resolution images of the celestial body, captured by Chang’e-2. The resolution of the images is 17 times greater than those taken by Chang’e-1.
‘The success of the extended missions also embodies that China now possesses spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight,’ said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar probe program.
Chang’e-2’s extended missions, which were conducted millions of miles away from Earth, have tested China’s spacecraft tracking and control network, including two newly built measuring and control stations in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and northeast Heilongjiang province, according to the SASTIND.
However, China still belongs to the second tier in lunar probe internationally, said Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist for China’s lunar orbiter project, adding that the U.S. and Russia are still leading nations in this field.
Wu Weiren stressed the need for international cooperation in lunar probe mission, saying it is a shared responsibility of world scientists to work together in lunar and deep space exploration for the common good of the human race.
Attribution: Leon Watson, Daily Mail
A 150-foot asteroid orbiting Earth called 2012 DA14 will pass so close to Earth it will fly UNDER man-made satellites orbiting our planet.
Nasa’s Impact Risk report said that the odds of the space rock actually hitting our planet are very low, but on February 15 next year it will pass just 17,000 miles from Earth, closer than ‘geostationary’ satellites.
If an asteroid of that size hit our planet, it would cause an explosion similar to a nuclear blast.
Two astronomers from the the Observatorio Astronómico de La Sagra in Spain spotted 2012 DA14 in late February and its orbit has been calculated to be very similar to Earth’s.
Some reports suggested that on February 15 next year an impact was a possibility, but U.S astronomer Phil Plait, the creator of the Bad Astronomy blog, has ruled out an impact.
He wrote: “Asteroid 2012 DA14 is almost certainly not going to hit Earth next February. And by, almost certainly, I mean it. The odds of an impact are so low they are essentially zero. This does not rule out an impact at some future date, but for now we’re safe.”
The space rock will come within 17,000 miles of Earth, which is closer than some of our satellites, but Plait says this is nothing to worry about.
He adds: “Seventeen thousand miles is well beneath many of our own orbiting satellites. To the best of my knowledge, this is the closest pass of a decent-sized asteroid ever seen before the actual pass itself. However, let’s again be very clear, it will miss. In astronomical terms, 17,000 miles is pretty close, but in real human terms it’s a clean miss.”
After next year, 2012 DA14’s closest brush with Earth will come in 2020, but Plait said that even then, the odds of an impact will be less than the chance of being hit by lightning in your lifetime – 1 in 100,000.
Last night a space rock caused panic across the UK, with police forces inundated with calls after spotting it in the sky and mistaking it for a burning aircraft.
The Met Office tweeted: “Hi all, for anyone seeing something in the night sky, we believe it was a meteorite.”
The Kielder Observatory also reported the sighting of a ‘huge fireball’ travelling from north to south over Northumberland.
The Observatory posted on Twitter: “Of 30 years observing the sky, fireball best thing I have ever seen period.”
Attribution: Ted Thornhill