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Witnessing the destruction of an asteroid

The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is not like the messy debris field in the movie ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. It may contain millions of rocky and metallic objects, but the distances that separate them are vast and collisions are rare.

Witnessing the destruction of an asteroid
When the asteroids break, they leave a telltale trail of debris and dust. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

This is what makes the P / 2016 G1 such an exciting object. Seen through the asteroid belt in early 2016, this object had a strange orbit and a layer of dust that resembled a comet. Through careful analysis of the telescopic images, the scientists identified several showers of debris that shot from its surface, the kind that could only be produced by an impact.

What they found was not a comet, but the immediate consequences of the murder of an asteroid.

By March 6, 2016, an asteroid at least 400 meters in diameter was running its own business when another space rock weighing about 1,000 kilograms hit the largest asteroid at about 18,000 kilometers per hour. This is about five times faster than a bullet fired from a sniper rifle. The projectile was destroyed after impact; The target then split into stages in the coming months before it became unseen.

Without this collision, these two small objects would remain forever anonymous. Instead, scientists got an accidental view of the destructiveness of asteroids, which could help defend the earth against future asteroid hazards. After all, “the best way to see how hard a thing is, is to break it,” he said. Olivier Hainaut, astronomer of the European Southern Observatory and lead author of the study published earlier this year in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Astronomers discovered the P / 2016 G1 with the Pan-Starrs1 telescope, in Hawaii, on AprIil 2016. Stepping back through archived images, astronomers realized that it had been visible the previous month for the first time as a centralized collection of rocky clusters: the fractured remains of the asteroid surrounded by a thin cloud of dust, probably the immediate debris was discarded by the impact.

Over the next few weeks, an expanding ring of debris could also be seen emerging from the object. Computer simulations revealed that this was the beginning of a high rubble cone, a hallmark of an impact event.

After the initial debris cloud was created, the crater process lost energy and subsequent debris flows were more slowly excavated into the new asteroid scar. On Earth, this ring of debris would land around the crater. But on a small, low-gravity asteroid, this ring of debris simply flew into space, expanding as it advanced.

There is no clear date when the asteroid disappeared.

Dr. Hainaut said:

Documenting the disappearance of the P / 2016 G1 was like tracking a drop of milk on your coffee. The pieces scatter and disappear individually. However, by December 2018, the asteroid could no longer be seen.

Although the asteroid may have disappeared, the data collected may be useful in the future. With sufficient warning time, an asteroid heading toward Earth would ideally be deflected by colliding with a spacecraft at remarkable speeds. But an overzealous impact could break an asteroid into fragments that could still disastrously fall to Earth.

Knowing what types of impacts cause deviations and interruptions is essential for protecting the earth from wandering asteroids. That makes the disappearance of the P / 2016 G1 a vital source of information, he said. Megan Bruck Syal, a planetary defense researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who did not participate in the study.

This spectacularly documented event may not be so rare for much longer. Increasingly comprehensive sky sweep surveys, including the Large Synoptic Research Telescope in Chile will capture many of these camera impacts, giving planetary defense researchers more data to study in cutting-edge simulations.

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How much water is there on Mars and is there enough for future colonists?

For many centuries, man dreamed of conquering the Red Planet, and it seems that in the very near future we will finally be able to take our first step in obtaining an interplanetary view. In order to be able to successfully land on Mars, NASA experts plan to first identify the most suitable place for the landing of future colonists. The main criterion in strict selection will be the presence of ice water, without which the existence of a person in the distant cold desert of a reddish hue would become completely impossible. So where should the first people land on the Red Planet and how much water is on Mars?

Mars and its most suitable zone for the construction of the first human colony outside the Earth

Is there a lot of water on Mars?

According to an article published on the portal phys.org, huge reserves of ice water on Mars can be located only at a depth of 2.5 centimeters from the surface. Its presence will be a key factor in choosing a potential landing site, because such important water resources of the planet will be one of the basic necessities for replenishing the colony’s drinking water reserves and making rocket fuel.

In order to find accessible ice water on Mars, NASA uses data from two spacecrafts at once – NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey Orbiter. According to the latest data received from the probes, future colonists will not even require the use of excavators and other heavy equipment to extract the vital resource, which can significantly reduce the cost of the course of the future mission.

Map of water ice on Mars

Blue shades show the closest water sources to the surface, red shades show the most distant ones. Black spots are sandy deserts, and the white area can be an ideal candidate for the landing of the first astronauts.

Due to the fact that liquid water cannot exist for a long time in a rarefied Mars atmosphere, almost instantly evaporating into outer space, scientists have yet to develop a technology that can allow water production without loss. The exact location of the ice can be detected using two heat-sensitive instruments – the Martian climate probe MRO and the thermal imaging camera system (THEMIS), designed specifically for Mars Odyssey.

Although there are a large number of places of interest for scientists on Mars, only a few of them are able to provide suitable landing sites for astronauts. So, despite the fact that the middle and southern latitudes of Mars receive more sunlight than its more northern regions, planetologists believe that the most preferred place for landing on Mars will be the Arcadia Planitia region, where water ice reserves are located only 30 centimeters under the surface of the planet.

Researchers believe that at present, the total water resources of the Red Planet are approximately 65 million cubic kilometers, which could well be enough to cover the surface of Mars with a layer of 35 meters thick water. Well, perhaps, future Martian colonists are unlikely to have to worry about the fact that the water on the Red Planet will someday end.

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The Interstellar Research Initiative plans to send people to the exoplanet of Proxima Centauri b

In an attempt to protect humanity from extinction in the event of some kind of global catastrophe of a planetary scale, a group of scientists announced a bold plan for the colonization of a distant exoplanet.

Proxima Centauri b

Scientists from the Initiative for Interstellar Studies said they were considering sending people to a potentially inhabited exoplanet in another stellar system.

The most promising option they consider, Proxima Centauri b, which is 4.24 light years away from Earth, which means the journey will take centuries or even millennia. This suggests that generations will succeed each other during the journey.

Technically, this is possible.

However, the challenges facing the mission are so numerous and complex that it can take decades to prepare.

“From the point of view of physics, there are no fundamental obstacles. There are many nuances, but this is not a violation of the fundamental laws of physics, ”said Andreas Hein, Executive Director of Initiative for Interstellar Studies.

No problem.

The main problem is the lack of experience being far beyond the Earth for such a period of time.

Even a flight to Mars, which will last about 6-8 months, raises a lot of questions.

Proxima Centauri b

There is no reliable protection against merciless radiation yet. Medical problems caused by a prolonged stay in space are still poorly understood. Other than that, there is no guarantee that Proxima Centauri b is indeed liveable.

Can you imagine what a setup would be if people born on a spaceship for one purpose would come to a planet absolutely unsuitable for settlement …

However, the authors of the project do not plan to curtail the program and continue to work actively in this direction.

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European Space Agency to launch space waste collector

A four-armed robotic junk collector will be launched into space by the European Space Agency in what it says will be the first mission to remove an item of debris from orbit.

European Space Agency to launch space waste collector

The ClearSpace-1 mission, scheduled for launch in 2025, will cost €120m and will grab a single piece of junk. But the agency hopes the mission will pave the way for a wide-reaching clear-up operation, with Esa’s director general calling for new rules that would compel those who launch satellites to take responsibility for removing them from orbit once they are retired from use.

Jan Wörner, CEO of ESA, said:

Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water. That is the current situation in orbit, and it cannot be allowed to continue.

In the past 60 years, thousands of tonnes of junk has accumulated around the Earth, including old rocket parts, about 3,500 defunct satellites and an estimated 750,000 smaller fragments, some from collisions between larger bits of junk. The fragments are typically circulating with a velocity of 20,000km/h (12,500mph).

Unless a clear-up operation is mounted, the chances of collisions will escalate as thousands more satellites are put into orbit.

Funding for the mission was agreed at Space19+, ESA’s misterial council, which took place in Seville, Spain, at the end of November. The mission will be run by a consortium led by a Swiss startup called Clearspace.

The target for ClearSpace-1 is a piece of junk called Vespa, which was left in an orbit around 800km above the Earth by ESA’s Vega launcher in 2013. Vespa weighs 100kg – around the size of a small satellite – and was selected because it has a simple shape and sturdy construction, which make it unlikely to fragment when it is grabbed.

The “chaser” ClearSpace space probe will be launched into the target orbit where it will track down Vespa, grab it using a quartet of robotic arms and drag it out of orbit, with Vespa and the chaser both burning up in the atmosphere on the way down to Earth.

A future ambition is to create a clear-up robot that could eject junk into the atmosphere, before continuing to capture and de-orbit other pieces of junk.

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