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Ominous record: on Friday the 13th an asteroid passed below the ISS

Ominous record: on Friday the 13th an asteroid passed below the ISS 86

On Friday, November 13, 2020, asteroid 2020 VT4 set a historic record for close proximity to Earth. At some point, it was closer to our planet than the ISS. Moreover, astronomers noticed the uninvited guest only a few hours after the rendezvous.

At 17:20 UT, the heavenly stone passed over the South Pacific at an altitude of less than 400 kilometers. Never before has an asteroid been observed so close to our planet (except for those that fell on it).

The mark passed by a celestial body is even below the orbit of the International Space Station, not to mention geostationary satellites. However, as a result of the unexpected visit, not a single spacecraft was damaged (the ISS was at that moment over another region of the globe).

Interestingly, astronomers noticed 2020 VT4 only 15 hours after the rendezvous, when it was already moving away from the Earth. But you shouldn’t blame the scientists for negligence: the asteroid was approaching from the direction of the Sun, so it simply drowned in the glow of the star.

Ominous record: on Friday the 13th an asteroid passed below the ISS 87
The animation shows the movement of asteroid 2020 VT4 across the sky as observed by the ATLAS telescope.Illustration ATLAS / Larry Denneau.

According to Universe Today, the size of 2020 VT4 is estimated at 4-5 meters. For comparison: the body, fragments of which collapsed to the Earth in the region of Chelyabinsk in 2013 , had about 20 meters in diameter. So the fall of 2020 VT4 into the ocean would hardly have threatened serious consequences.

Having discovered an asteroid moving away from the planet, experts calculated its orbit. Curiously, the approach to the massive Earth has radically changed it. Now 2020 VT4 orbits the Sun not in 549, but in 315 days. However, the next date with our planet, the heavenly guest will have to wait until 2052. And even then he will pass from it at a solid distance of 1.8 million kilometers (that is, several times farther than the Moon).

Ominous record: on Friday the 13th an asteroid passed below the ISS 88
The orbit of asteroid 2020 VT4 before approaching the Earth (according to the results of calculations).Illustration by NASA / JPL.

The previous record of the asteroid’s approach to Earth was also set in 2020 . It belongs to the celestial body 2020 QG, which missed our planet in 2950 kilometers.

Of course, such an abundance of records does not mean that there are suddenly more asteroids near the Earth. Rather, it is a matter of closer observation of the sky. In other words, visitors have arrived before, but astronomers were unaware of this. Therefore, we probably still have many “close acquaintances” ahead. Indeed, the list of bodies potentially dangerous for the Earth includes several million objects.

Space

In 2021, the Moon will host a car race driven by schoolchildren

In 2021, the Moon will host a car race driven by schoolchildren 93
MAPP project

In 2021, a remote controlled rover race will take place on the lunar surface. At the same time, the development of these cars will be carried out by the famous auto designer Frank Stephenson, who worked with BMW, Ferrari and other whales of the automotive business, and … schoolchildren. Such an amazing statement was made by representatives of the Moon Mark project.

On October 11, 2021, the launch of the Nova-C device, developed by Intuitive Machines, is planned. This probe is slated to land softly on the surface of Selene in the Ocean of Storms.

If successful, it will be the first soft-landing probe designed and manufactured by a private company (not with private money, though).

Nova-C is capable of delivering up to one hundred kilograms of payload to the moon. Most of it is NASA’s scientific instruments, which funded the project. By the way, NASA allocated $ 77 million for the creation and launch of the spacecraft . However, the contract stipulates a certain payload limit, which Intuitive Machines has the right to spend at its discretion.

And eight kilograms of this limit will be allocated to … racing rovers from the Moon Mark company. Each vehicle will weigh 2.5 kilograms, and another three kilograms will be a system for deploying them on the surface of Selena.

This is a very extravagant decision (although how is it worse than sending a car on an interplanetary trip by Elon Musk ?).

Recall that over the past 40 years there have been only five attempts at soft landing on the moon. Of these, two ( Israeli and Indian ) ended in failure. And now it turns out that 8% of the space on the device flying to Selena (and the cost of this 8%, based on the project budget, will amount to more than $ 6 million) will be spent on entertainment for children.

In this place, any scientist who for decades dreamed of delivering his device to the moon for certain scientific research could start banging his head against the wall.

In 2021, the Moon will host a car race driven by schoolchildren 94
Schoolchildren will take part in the design of future rovers. Illustration by Moon Mark.

But the project developers have their own reasons. The race will attract the attention of society to space exploration, and above all of the younger generation. But these are future astronomers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and also voters and even politicians. If today’s children light up with the dream of exploring the Universe, and then carry it into their hearts into their adult life, then this $ 6,000,000 (by the way, not such a large amount by the standards of modern astronautics) will turn out not to be a reckless waste, but a very profitable investment in the future of humanity.

What will this project look like in practice? The lunar surface races will be the main prize of the Moon Mark’s Mission 1 competition, which will feature six teams of high school students. Schoolchildren will compete in drone races, space mission design and other fun things.

The two winning teams will receive the right to operate the racing moon rovers (from Earth, of course). But first, they will take part in their development. The chassis, controls and other important systems will of course be designed by specialists.

It is known for certain that the schoolchildren will work out the body design (here the famous Frank Stevenson will help them). This is also not an easy task. After all, the body must protect the device from damage in accidents and save it from the ubiquitous moon dust. In addition, when designing it, the mass distribution and many other technical parameters must be taken into account.

The prototype of the racing lunar rovers will be the MAPP project from the Lunar Outpost company (it is covered in more detail in the video below). True, the concept will have to be finalized, because the MAPP devices weigh 10 kilograms and move at a speed of only 360 meters per hour, which is by no means dizzying.

Note that the actual pace of the races is a separate issue. The speed of future rovers has not yet been announced. However, the radio signal takes 1.3 seconds to reach the moon and the same time to return. It is unlikely that this way you can control something really fast in real time.

The route of future races is also yet to be laid.

“There is a trail that designs Hermann Tilke, who designed all the latest track,” Formula 1 “around the world” – says Stevenson material New Atlas.

Of course, the path will not be marked in any way on the lunar surface. Perhaps the route will be shown as a line on the screens where young operators will follow the movement of their vehicles.

In any case, the feast of technical thought will not be long. The Nova-C device is not equipped with heaters, which means that the life of its entire payload is one lunar day (about two Earth weeks).

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Space

In December, Earth’s inhabitants will be able to see a rare cosmic phenomenon

In December, Earth's inhabitants will be able to see a rare cosmic phenomenon 95

At the end of the year, astronomers expect to see a rare cosmic phenomenon dubbed the “Christmas star” in the sky. It will be caused by the fact that Saturn and Jupiter come close to each other at a minimum distance and almost collide to become one super-bright point of light.

These two planets became one straight line in the solar system a few weeks ago, but at the end of December they will be on it for observers from Earth. This will happen on December 21, 2020, on the day of the winter solstice, when the daylight hours are the shortest and the night is the longest. Jupiter and Saturn will look like a “double planet” for the first time since the Middle Ages, Forbes writes.

“The conjunctions of the two planets are extremely rare, but this particular conjunction is especially rare because the planets will be very close to each other,” Patrick Hartigan, astronomer at Rice University, USA said. “In order to observe a closer conjunction of these planets in the night sky, we would have to return on March 4, 1226.”

It is noted that the unusual celestial phenomenon can be observed from anywhere on the planet. The main thing is that the sky is clear. The “Christmas Star” can be seen in the western sky about an hour after sunset when viewed from the northern hemisphere.

“On the evening of their closest approach, December 21, they will appear as a twin planet, separated by less than 1/5 the diameter of the full moon,” Hartigan said. “For most amateur astronomers looking at the night sky through a telescope, both planets and several of their largest satellites will be in the same field of view this evening.”

In December, Earth's inhabitants will be able to see a rare cosmic phenomenon 96

Those who want to see Jupiter and Saturn converge in the sky as close, but will be higher above the horizon, will have to wait until March 15, 2080, Hartigan said. After that, a similar configuration for this planetary pair will not be observed until 2400.

Astronomers are already preparing equipment to analyze in detail the upcoming event. Everything is very serious, because the second such rapprochement between Jupiter and Saturn cannot be expected.

Of course, there will not be a collision of planets. You just get the impression that something terrible is about to happen in the solar system. Astronomers have assured that there is no reason to worry.

Is the “Christmas Star” an omen of things to come? Mark your calendars! 

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Space

A giant asteroid worth $ 17.4 billion is approaching Earth

A giant asteroid worth $ 17.4 billion is approaching Earth 97

NASA announced the imminent flight of a potentially dangerous asteroid will pass the Earth. The website of the Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects says that a celestial body ranging in size from 370 to 820 meters will approach the planet on November 29.

The asteroid, consisting of nickel, iron and cobalt, is approaching the Earth. The cost of minerals in its composition reaches $ 17.4 billion, with reference to the Asterank database, which contains data on 600 thousand asteroids.

The distance between the asteroid 153201 (2000 WO107) and the Earth will be more than 4 million kilometers, the Space Reference specified with reference to NASA data. It is noted that the distance from the Earth to the Moon is 10 times less, and the asteroid is considered dangerous because it crosses the orbit of our planet.

According to the NASA Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects, the celestial body will approach the Earth on November 29. 

It is noted that this time the asteroid does not pose a threat to the planet, however, it belongs to the group of potentially dangerous ones, since its trajectory crosses the Earth’s orbit.

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