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Space Science

Asteroid To Be Naked-Eye Visible In 2029 240

Posted by timothy
from the not-in-all-jurisdictions-see-local-listings dept.
An anonymous reader writes "SPACE.com is reporting that asteroid 2004 MN4 will fly so close to Earth in 2029 that it'll be visible to the naked eye. Other than barely-visible Vesta, this is a first. And 2004 MN4 will be about magnitude 3.3 -- like a dim but easily visible star. A moving star in this case. You might remember 2004 MN4 is the one that sparked worry, in December, that it would hit Earth. No worries, NASA says, just a once-in-a-millennium sky show."
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Asteroid To Be Naked-Eye Visible In 2029

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  • Now? (Score:5, Funny)

    by solowCX (796423) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:00PM (#11578401) Homepage
    Remind me in 24 years, my memory isn't that great.
    • Re:Now? (Score:2, Redundant)

      by bark76 (410275)
      Should I put a reminder in my Palm handheld?
    • Other than barely-visible Vesta, this is a first.

      Then it isn't a first, is it? Or is this the same kind of logic that says that a "near miss" isn't actually a hit?

      Eric
      How to detect Internet Explorer [ericgiguere.com]
      • Re:Now? (Score:3, Informative)

        by susano_otter (123650)
        It's certainly the first new asteroid of its kind. Probably the first asteroid we'll actually notice, entering our field of view. The first for which there will be a recorded "before" and "after". In other words, "sure, there's Vesta, but this is still first enough to be interesting".

        As for near misses? Well, they aren't actually hits.

    • Re:Now? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Naaw, no need. /editors will dupe this story about 15,000,000 times between now and then.
    • Re:Now? (Score:4, Funny)

      by legirons (809082) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:34PM (#11578714)
      Visible to the naked eye... but still a 2% chance of it being rather too visible?
      • Re:Now? (Score:3, Interesting)

        Visible to the naked eye... but still a 2% chance of it being rather too visible?

        No.

        The odds of the potential 2029 impact occurring have dropped so close to zero that the event is no longer even considered a long-shot possibility.

        • LOL real reassuring sig there:)

          Mycroft
        • "The odds of the potential 2029 impact occurring have dropped so close to zero that the event is no longer even considered a long-shot possibility."

          Specifically, you're now 5 times more likely to be hit by this asteroid than you are to win the UK lottery.

          My coworkers don't seem to recognise this number as "close to zero"...
    • That's [nasa.gov] awefully freakin' close!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If we put together a mission, any chance we can park it at one of the Lagrange points?
    • Yep, no chance that could go horribly wrong.

      Remind me to take a shuttle off-planet in case they get metric and English units confused again.
    • by dabigpaybackski (772131) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:33PM (#11578707) Homepage
      Or just put it in an orbit outside the Van Allen belts. A big, rugged space station there would be nice. Somebody get Virgin Galactic on this, or reshuffle the consortium that brought us the International Space Station boondoggle in favor of a truly worthy multinational project that will:

      a. Give us an opportunity to explore techniques for redirecting asteroids.

      b. Provide a test bed for asteroid mining techniques.

      c. Become an orbiting space station.

      d. Promote international cooperation.

      • Yes, but we better be prepared to defend from alian civilizations wanting to steal our roids.
        • Yes, but we better be prepared to defend from alian civilizations wanting to steal our roids.

          If they want our roids, by all means let them take our roids.

          Quite frankly, I've just about had it up to here *points at neck* with having to use with Preparation H.
      • Hmm, how much delta-v/rocket fuel to slow up a large asteroid from 17 km/sec to orbital speed.. Quite a lot of fuel/engine is gonna be needed..

        The only "cheap" (in terms of fuel) way of loosing all that velocity I can think of is diverting it so that it skims the Earths atmosphere for aerobraking/capture.. Fancy trying it?
        • Rocket exhaust only has a nozzle speed of a few km/s, so to lose ~10 km/s you need to use considereably more than an asteroid-mass of rocket fuel. (I think the technical term is a "motherfuckload".)

          So, unless we put a nuclear powered railgun (or maybe souped-up ion engine) on it and use bits of asteroid as reaction mass we aren't going to be capturing it. That tech will probably still be sci-fi in a couple of decades, sadly.
          • Okay, I've done a bit of back of envelope math, and based on a mass of 4.5 e10 kg, and a 20 year burn (630,720,000 seconds?), and a delta v of 10 km/sec....

            about 70,000 newtons. Continuous. For 20 Years.

            Sadly, I don't think we'll pull that off. At first, I got 70 Newtons, and I was all excited, because it seemed semi-plausible. Then, I realised, I had calculated for a delta v of 10 m/s, and I was sad, but I did gain an appreciation of how damned big a "little" asteroid is!
          • How about a nuclear rocket? That might meet the criterium of "motherfuckload," as you say.

            Ion engines are still primitive, but nuclear rocket motors are much closer to practicality. All the theoretical work is done, as are working blueprints. I saw one design, linked to on this site if I am not mistaken, for a nuclear-powered rocket, massively redundant and overbuilt for safety, designed to land vertically after releasing a massive payload into virtually any orbit you please.

            Now that's a rocket, and ma

            • Hmm, the question is actually not how much fule is needed to stop the thing, just how much is needed to put it into a good orbit around the earth.
              Probably a smaller number, also probably still a freaking huge one.
              Any chance of nudging it enough and using gravity as an ally here, if we can get a few space probes up to speed with slingshot tricks could we do the same here? What if any planets are in the right place for this (o.k. probably none considering how big space is)?
              While it seems one hell o
            • Hate to disappoint you, but those lifters work like ion engines, and the other stuff is just a load of bollocks.

              "Learn how Albert Einstein's Unified Field Theory was used in the Philadelphia Experiment and Nazi Bell Device!"

        • diverting it so that it skims the Earths atmosphere for aerobraking/capture.. Fancy trying it?

          Here's the plan: Don't fuck up.

  • I Always Wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by md10md (828419) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:02PM (#11578416)
    how they can predict that closely 24 years in advance. There's got to be some margin of error.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Sure

      +/- 1 Apocalypse
    • by pjt33 (739471) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:09PM (#11578496)
      They've been tracking it for a while, and NASA has some pretty good quadrature software for numerical solutions to the N-body problem. I don't see any particularly precise figures in the summary anyway, and I'm not going to read the article, am I?
    • by CanSpice (300894) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:29PM (#11578675) Homepage
      Go look at this JPL press release [nasa.gov]. See the white line in the closeup view? That's the error on the position. If that white line intersected Earth, then there would be some probability that this asteroid would strike us.

      They can predict these things through hundreds of observations from observers around the world. Through mathematical modelling they can calculate what the orbit is going to be. As more observations come in and as the forecast time comes closer the errors go down.
      • by temojen (678985)
        If it passes within the orbits of geosynchronous satellites, what's the chance of it striking one of them? If it does, might it lose enough momentum to enter earth orbit?
        • Re:So (Score:2, Insightful)

          by pcmanjon (735165)
          "If it passes within the orbits of geosynchronous satellites, what's the chance of it striking one of them? If it does, might it lose enough momentum to enter earth orbit?"

          I don't think so, imagine a car hitting a shopping cart full of grocerys at 50MPH. The car's not going to go off it's path much (unless driver swerves to avoid basket)
      • But there's possible way the could predict how much the path of the object will be influenced by other large bodies, right? I'm just wondering.
        I mean, it's kinda like saying I can drive from here to downtown in 6 minutes, but then you forget it's lunchtime...
    • There is. Last time they said it would hit so I guess the margin is +/- 24 years.
    • well.. maybe you skipped math, physics and history of science at school..?

      they have these mighty scientific instruments that they use to detect where the thing is and at what speed it is moving. then they simulate(calculate) forward from that.

      besides.. some stuff can be calculated 1000's of years forward(eclipses and such..). these objects are pretty stable in where they're going.

      and sure, there's some margin of error. and it 'could' hit earth too if some mega race came from the stars and gave it a nudge
  • First... duh (Score:1, Informative)

    by larry2k (592744) *
    The following table lists potential future Earth impact events http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/2004mn4.html
  • Nuke it (Score:3, Funny)

    by mboverload (657893) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:02PM (#11578421) Journal
    We should nuke it anyway, just to be sure.

    Also a good test for our naquadria-enhanced nuclear warheads =)

    • Re:Nuke it (Score:3, Funny)

      by pv2b (231846)
      Bad idea.

      The asteroid will turn out to be rich in Nadquada and would cause a much bigger "boom" than expected.

      Although you could always just extend the hyperspace field of the Goa'uld cargo ship... just for a few seconds...
    • We should nuke it anyway, just to be sure.

      Don't. The Ramans might object. You don't want to upset the Ramans, as they make three of everything.
  • Plan now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tqft (619476) <ianburrows_au@ya ... minus herbivore> on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:03PM (#11578429) Homepage Journal
    what do we want to land on it?

    Large stable platform.

    Within Earth orbit (mostly).

    A (radio?) telescope?
    • Re:Plan now (Score:3, Funny)

      by k4_pacific (736911)
      How about we build a Starbucks on it?
    • Go look at this orbit simulation [nasa.gov]. If you run it into the future you'll see that the vast majority of the time this thing is pretty far away from the Earth, farther away from the Earth than the moon. And given it's a small body, we can't accurately predict where it's going to be in 50 years. It'd be much better to put something on the Moon than on this asteroid.
      • I think that's the point of putting something on this asteroid - it's an extraplanetary explorer with its own momentum and trajactory already. The moon? We've seen that. Where's this thing going? I don't know, but it could be pretty cool to find out.
      • by inKubus (199753)
        Looks like it also gets pretty close to Venus. There has to be some way to use the thing, drop a telescope or dish on it and use it to triangulate stuff using the diameter of the orbit as a base. Would possibly lead to some new developments because you'd actually be able to do it almost real time, rather than in a model like now..
  • Sweet (Score:5, Funny)

    by ckemp.org (667117) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:04PM (#11578434) Homepage
    My ride outta here, man. It's comin'.
  • by mboverload (657893) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:05PM (#11578447) Journal
    What about Skynet? Are the evil robots just going to put their plan on hold so we can watch the asteriod? I don't know about you, but I would be much more concerned about the polished-chrome evil robots with freakin' lasers, if you know what I mean.
  • by DrKyle (818035) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:06PM (#11578453)
    I'm still waiting to see Halley's comet for the second time in my life (1986 when I was 10) and hopefully in 2061 (I'll be.... 85). Why ruin the fun by seeing this mere asteroid?
  • by reporter (666905) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:07PM (#11578470) Homepage
    This new asteroid actually provides an excellent opportunity to test some of our anti-asteroid proposals. They are intended to prevent an asteroid from actually colliding with earth. This new asteroid will not collide with earth but would provide an opportunity to test anti-asteroid technologies.

    Two ideas to test in 2029 are (1) dumping a bunch of white paint on the asteroid from a passing nuclear-powered interplanetary missile and (2) 1 week later, detonate a nuclear warhead loaded on another interplanetary missile that will fly close to but will not impact said asteroid. We had better test these ideas on a safe asteroid instead of waiting for the day when an asteroid aimed at earth actually arrives.

    Given the fact that engineering is not perfect, if we do not actually test these anti-asteroid technologies in advance, then we run the high risk of failure when we use them for the 1st time on an actual asteroid destined for earth. To my knowledge, very few engineering products work correctly on the first try. 'Tis better to be safe than sorry.

    • by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:21PM (#11578612)
      We had better test these ideas on a safe asteroid instead of waiting for the day when an asteroid aimed at earth actually arrives.

      I have a differing opinion on what constitutes a safe asteroid. A mistake on this asteroid could potentially be just as devistating as a mistake on one destined to collide with us.

      I'd rather poke a few asteroids that don't come within 22,600 miles of Earth.
      • not only that, but the parent talked about sending up nukes. Remember the deal when the Cassini launched? People don't like nukes, especially nuclear material attached to a rocket that may malfunction while trying to leave the atmosphere. Their is so much liability involved with this that it's just not practical.
        • People don't like nukes, especially nuclear material attached to a rocket that may malfunction while trying to leave the atmosphere.

          Problem solved if you mined and built the nuke in space.

          I don't know offhand if the moon qualifies. Short of that, I'm sure the local interplanetary WalMart might work.
      • A mistake on this asteroid could potentially be just as devistating as a mistake on one destined to collide with us.

        OBSERVATION REPORT, Vogon Space Fleet

        The search for extra-planetary life has uncovered a radio transmission near the area of some of our previous landings.

        The time of the transmission is estimated to have occurred some time after the sudden change in the trajectory of asteroid SDFSJHS-138765-54. An investigation is pending.

        Transcript of broadcast follows:

        "D'OH!!!"
        [Ends.]

    • Meanwhile, on 2004 MN4:

      Alien technician: We will be flying close to Earth shortly, Lord.
      Alien Overlord: Yes! This provides us an excellent opportunity to test some of our anti homo sapien proposals.
    • White paint? What, are you going to blind it so it can't see to hit us? :-p

      You don't really think white paint is reflective enough to make a difference in an asteroid's orbit over any reasonable amount of time, do you? Or that we could effectively coat one in it?

      p
  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:08PM (#11578484) Homepage Journal
    The northern lights are particularly fascinating, and are visible to about 25% of the Earth with the naked eye during the fall and spring equinoxum -- and take note, a similar phenomenon, referred to as the southern lights, occurs in the lower hemisphere to treat the other 25%.

    There are also shooting stars occurring quite often, more now with the space junk we've got floating up there. And there should be at least two comets, which are effectively luminescent asteroids, visible this year as well.

    Just make sure you get away from light pollution if you want the best opportunity to observe these spectacles. About fifteen minutes in any direction out of town will do, and will make you think seriously about more serious astrology (you'd be surprised how much can be done with under $1000 of equipment!)

  • light pollution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mboverload (657893)
    By the time 2029 comes along, light pollution will remove all detail in the night sky.
  • Heck, I hope their math and assumptions are good. With this many years, and assumptions you don't have to be far off for the big bang. That is, hit this blue marble instead of passing by.
  • by glenebob (414078)
    Let's land on it with vaguely space shuttle looking craft (with coolness enhancements) that somehow manage to make noises and maneuver like an air craft in a near-perfect vacuum! They could even send two, and they could film each others maneuvers, and then we'd get a documentary about it! Let's man the craft with completely inexperience, untrained non-astronauts who will drill into the asteroid and plant nukular bombs to blow the asteroid in two!

    Cool, totally original idea huh :-)
    • Nah, it sounds really bad. I expect that at least one of the shuttles will probably get hit on the way in and crash. In addition, there is always the very real posssiblity that one of your crew will go totally nutzo out of the blue, and just when he has access to a dangerous weapon. Finally, I'm sure that al least one astronaut will have to stay behind and sacrifice himself when the bomb triggers go haywire. But perhaps I'm just thinking negatively...
      • That's OK, because I bet some people will actually find contrived glitches like that to be entertaining. Which will make the documentary all the more enjoyable.
  • Since the asteroid is set to cross below the geosynchronous satellites, anyone report on the possibly of the asteroid taking out a handful of satellites? Like the GPS and communications satellites (i though they are in geosync orbits)
    • A handfull??? Even one would be against collossal odds... A handful would be down right impossible I think.
    • That would strategically be the strongest move, yes.
    • The GPS constellation orbits at about 20,000 km altitude, so they'll definitely be safe. The geosynchronous comsats are more vulnerable, but that's only significant if the asteroid were to approach in the equatorial plane. Since the equatorial plane is inclined about 23 degrees to the ecliptic, it's unlikely in the extreme that it would be able to hit a geosynchronous satellite.
  • by FrostedWheat (172733) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:36PM (#11578728)
    No worries, NASA says, just a once-in-a-millennium sky show.

    Sure, that's how all these things start. But then later there is running and screaming!
  • by Laconian (578463) on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:40PM (#11578756)
    this is a first
    once-in-a-millenium

    My friend, if this was a once-in-a-millenium occurance, this would be classified as "a 4,600,000th".

    Or if you be of the Christian faith, a 6th.
  • After 288 clicks on the little calendar thingy I was able to add this event to my Outlook Calendar.
    Though I REALLY hope I don't still work here then.....

    Will Outlook 2029 be able to read my old calendar by then?
  • if it hit the earth, that would be more easily visible.
  • by adeyadey (678765) on Friday February 04, 2005 @09:22PM (#11579123) Journal
    This is BBC news, its Friday, April 13, 2029, we join Patrick Moore at Greenwich to report on the flyby of asteroid MN4 2004..

    Its clearly visible now, around Magnitude 3..
    Now brighter..

    magnitude 2.. 1..

    My Word! What a treat for all you Astronomy buffs out there!

    Magnitude 0.. -1.. -2..

    It is the Brightest object in the sky now, clearly moving against the background of stars..

    Magnitude -3.. -4..

    But should it be this bright? And is it starting to get warm? Whats..

    (Transmission cuts)

  • by solariax (800824) on Friday February 04, 2005 @09:28PM (#11579170)
    I don't know about you folks, but I don't intend to let another full generation pass before we have basic things in place like a viable off-world colony and the ability to protect ourselves from the occasional ancient space-pebble.... I mean, come on. This will be a fun show but it's another sign from nature.....like aurora, meteor showers, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, the very tides themselves....that the Universe is a very dynamic place and we had damned well better be ready for unexpected, occasionally violent change in the 'world as we know it.' Right now the Bush-driven NASA agenda for the Moon and Mars has us just barely managing to get first boots-on-dirt/regolith by this timeframe (2029-2030) and exactly how often has NASA been on schedule with manned objectives in the past two decades or so (no offense my friends, I support your work 100%)??? As for the core objectives of humanity as opposed to politicians, achieving the lion's share of those goals seems mostly like to come from good ol' "private enterprise" in all its bizarre and wonderful forms. I would imagine that Burt Rutan has a few thoughts on these things....
  • how are we supposed to join the alien mothership following "asteroid 2004 MN4" ? we need a good name like HALE BOPP COMET!

    THE TIME IS NEAR! PREPARE YOUR NIKE SHOES FOR TRANSPORT INTO THE OTHERWORLDS!
  • It's an asteroid!
    I bet that's not what you thought I was going to say, right?
  • Ok, since it is on topic and I feel compelled to embarrass myself...

    I spent some time in December when the asteroid hype began and designed a graphic. I hoped to cash in on the end of the Earth hysteria; however, within four hours of setting up the CafePress shop, scientists discovered old observations, recomputed the trajectory, and confirmed the miss - all but ending my dreams of tongue in cheek panic-profiteering.

    So I present to you the design that might have been. [cafepress.com]

    Enjoy

  • That will be my retirement party fireworks.
  • NASA could have their figures wrong...

    I mean, this *is* the agency that blew up a space probe because they couldn't remember to use metric or imperial units, and crashed that other probe becuse they installed the parachute sensor upside down.

    So, what are the changes that NASA is wrong, and this thing *is* going to go smak into the pacific ocean? (or better yet, land on Redmond Washington).

  • Everyone who is making making plans for 2029, please realise that by then we might have a technological Singularity already, with advanced nanotech, AI and immortality. To think that a "naked-eye" visible asteroid would be in any way exciting is insane! There won't be naked-eyes anymore. I don't expect to have unmodified eyes in 24 years and with built-in HUD and VR looking at the passing of the asteroid would not be any more exiting than looking at an asteroid in the asteroid belt or in the latest VR simul
  • Unfortunately, my naked eyes will probably degenerate enough by 2029 that I won't be able to see it that way. {pout}
  • It's the asteroid that the technodrome is stuck on in Dimension-X. Since Krang and Shredder couldn't pull the technodrome back to Earth, they pulled the entire asteroid into our solar system.

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