New Horizons Journey; Wrong Way Asteroid; Ring Around Mars?

Posted April 4th, 2017 at 3:45 pm (UTC-4)
2 comments

In preparation for the New Horizons flyby of 2014 MU69 (in yellow diamond) on Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took a series of 10-second exposures of the background star field near the location of its target Kuiper Belt object. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

The New Horizons spacecraft took a series of exposures of the background star field near the location of its target Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69. (yellow diamond). (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

New Horizons Halfway to Next Flyby Destination

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft provided scientists an amazing once in a lifetime look at the distant dwarf planet Pluto as it flew by it in July 2015.

Along with spectacular images of Pluto the spacecraft also sent back those of Pluto’s five moons including high definition shots of Charon its largest and Nix one it’s smaller satellites.

The spacecraft also observed a dozen objects in the Kuiper Belt a distant region of our solar system filled with objects made of ice and rock.

After the fly-by New Horizons has continued on the path for its next fly-by destination a Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69 some 1.6 billion kilometers from Pluto.

Officials with the New Horizons mission report that the spacecraft has recently reached its important halfway point between Pluto and MU69 and will be put into a 157 day hibernation period.

New Horizons is expected to conduct its flyby of 2014 MU 69 sometime in January 2019.

Asteroid Bee-Zed avoids colliding with Jupiter and with the Trojan asteroids with every wrong-way pass it makes. (Western University (Canada), Athabaskan University, Large Binocular Telescope Observatory)

Wrong Way Asteroid

Astronomers recently discovered an asteroid that is traveling in an orbit that’s the exact opposite of 99.9 percent of the planets and asteroids in our solar system.

Jupiter shares its orbital path with 6,000 asteroids called Trojan asteroids. All are rotating in the same direction.

The wrong way asteroid dubbed 2015 BZ509 or just BZ for short also shares Jupiter’s orbit too, but it travels in orbit like a car going the wrong way on a busy one way street.

You would think that BZ would have been smashed to bits by now by the solar system’s largest planet.

But, a new study shows, the wayward rock has been able to safely maintain its odd travel path thanks to Jupiter’s gravitational influence which helps it to weave in and out of danger’s way.

Calculations by the study’s research team indicate that 2015 BZ509 will be able to safely maintain its dangerous orbit for the next million years at least.

This artist’s concept depicts the early Martian environment (right) – believed to contain liquid water and a thicker atmosphere – versus the cold, dry environment seen at Mars today (left). (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

This artist’s concept depicts the early Martian environment (right) – believed to contain liquid water and a thicker atmosphere – versus the cold, dry environment seen at Mars today (left). (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

Solar Wind and Radiation Stripped Mars of Its Atmosphere

NASA’s MAVEN, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission spacecraft was sent to the Red Planet with a goal of finding out what happened to the Martian atmosphere.

Several studies suggest that a little over 4 billion years ago, Mars had a thick, rich atmosphere, oceans of flowing water on its surface.  All of which could have possibly supported life.

Today however, the Red Planet is pretty much cold and desert like and surrounded by a very thin atmosphere.

New results of studies made from data gathered by MAVEN points the finger of blame on solar wind and radiation as the culprits behind stripping the atmosphere from Mars.

MAVEN principal investigator Bruce Jakosky, from the University of Colorado, Boulder says their new research has found that most of the gas ever present in the Mars atmosphere has been lost to space.

Designers Want to Dangle Building from Space

Here’s an idea for a new kind of building that is out of this world. WAY out of this world.

An architecture firm called Clouds Architecture Office has an idea to build a skyscraper that is actually more like a ground scraper.

Called the Analemma Tower, their idea calls for snagging a large asteroid, putting it into orbit, and then using the space rock to tether and anchor the giant building with a high strength cable.

The system being considered for use is referred to as a Universal Orbital Support System (UOSS).

That’s right – it’s a building, dangled from outer space.

If you think this sounds crazy, maybe it is, but remember that Clouds AO is the same company that has already won a NASA competition to design living quarters on Mars.

For the Analemma Tower, occupants would be able to enter and exit the building at various surface transfer points located on high hills and mountains here on Earth along the tower’s orbital path.

Aboriginal elder and Goolarabooloo Law Boss Richard Hunter lies alongside a 1.75 meter footprint of a sauropod dinosaur track. Said to be the largest dinosaur track that had been found so far, it was discovered along with the footprints of 21 other dinosaur species on the coast of Northwestern Australia. (Damian Kelly-University of Queensland via Reuters)

Aboriginal elder and Goolarabooloo Law Boss Richard Hunter lies alongside a 1.75 meter footprint of a sauropod dinosaur track found on the coast of Northwestern Australia. (Damian Kelly-University of Queensland via Reuters)

Dinosaur Leaves BIG Footprint

Investigations by a team of paleontologists from two Australian universities have revealed a bonanza of diverse dinosaur footprints.

The scientists found 21 tracks made by different species of dinosaurs along a 25-kilometer area of coastline in northwestern Australia, they’ve called “Australia’s Jurassic Park”.

Among the tracks are also what is considered to be some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever documented.

The researchers say that some of the footprints, made by members of dinosaur group called the sauropod, are around 1.7 meters long.

Among the tracks include those from five different types of predatory dinosaurs, six from herbivorous sauropods, four from two-legged herbivorous ornithopods, and six types of tracks from armored dinosaurs.

Color image of Martian moon Phobos (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Color image of Martian moon Phobos (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Ring Around Mars

When we think of planets in our solar system surrounded by rings most of us, of course, think of Saturn.

In a new NASA funded study, scientists at Indiana’s Purdue University theorize that our planetary neighbor, Mars, also had rings at one time during its history and may have them again sometime in the future.

The scientists created and studied a model that proposes a good amount of material blown into space after an asteroid or other celestial body slammed into the red planet went on to form a planetary ring.

The study suggests that later, as the ring material spread further out in space, it gathered to create a moon.

Meanwhile scientists are also saying the Martian moon Phobos is getting closer to the planet.

The model proposes that in perhaps 70 million years the moon will break apart and become a new set of rings for the Red Planet.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

2 responses to “New Horizons Journey; Wrong Way Asteroid; Ring Around Mars?”

  1. Larry Farr says:

    Purdue is in Indiana – not Louisiana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *