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Space Science

NASA Snaps New Photo of Incoming Asteroid 135

Posted by timothy
from the authorities-say-it-is-unarmed-and-not-dangerous dept.
astroengine writes "Wider than an aircraft carrier and darker than coal, asteroid 2005 YU55 is soaring at over 11 miles a second straight towards Earth and moon on its latest path through the inner solar system. This new radar image was acquired Nov. 7 by the 70-meter radio telescope at NASA's Deep Space Network in Goldstone, Calif., and shows the approaching space rock in unprecedented detail." Phil Plait has posted some information from NASA about just how they're doing the tricky job of tracking the asteroid.
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NASA Snaps New Photo of Incoming Asteroid

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  • That's a screen grab from a 240p Youtube video of an Alien egg.

    What don't they want us to see?!
  • The new radar image looks like the bald scalp and the eyes of Phantom, the Ghost who walks. (Walker when he comes out of the African Jungles on missions). Indrajal Comics used to reprint them in India. Wonder if he was as popular in USA/Europe. Wondering how I never even noticed the racial overtones when I was young.
    • by Nyder (754090)

      The new radar image looks like the bald scalp and the eyes of Phantom, the Ghost who walks. (Walker when he comes out of the African Jungles on missions). Indrajal Comics used to reprint them in India. Wonder if he was as popular in USA/Europe. Wondering how I never even noticed the racial overtones when I was young.

      Yes, it was in the newspapers comics (weekdays and weekends) and even enjoyed a spin off (Phantom 2040) cartoon.

      Always like it,not sure why exactly, just struck a cord with me i guess.

    • I have a 4'x4' print of the Phantom's face on my wall.

      Yes, we know who the Phantom is in the West.
    • by Idbar (1034346)
      I think my asteroids game in my Atari 2600 console had prettier asteroid pictures. But perhaps I've become so used to high resolution pictures :)
    • by Iskender (1040286)

      They still draw and publish a magazine with him in Sweden. Probably only Superman/Batman are more well known/popular there.

  • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @10:21AM (#37985320)

    ...Faster than a speeding bullet, able to level entire buildings in a single blow. ;-)

  • by Superken7 (893292) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @10:25AM (#37985380) Journal

    The article explains why the asteroid looks like a pixelated sprite taken from the era of Monkey Island.

    For those that didn't want to bother reading both articles and just wanted to have a look at the image but then thought "WTF" after having a look at it:

    "The individual pulses can be timed very accurately as well, so that the shape of the asteroid can be determined, too. If there is a bump on the asteroid, like a hill, then a pulse hitting that won’t travel quite as far as a pulse that hits a crater. It gets back sooner, and this can be measured. The spatial resolution of this method at the distance of YU 55 will be about 4 meters, so they’ll be able to make an image that’s about 100 pixels across of it."

    image: http://news.discovery.com/space/2011/11/07/asteroid-2005-yu55-new-825.jpg [discovery.com]

    • by gfxguy (98788)

      I read... apparently it's dark; very dark - reflecting less than 1% of the light that hits it. I was going to ask where to look, but I'm guessing even a decent regular telescope won't really be able to see much, if anything, and I don't have a decent telescope.

    • I thought it was a Minecraft screen grab, but yeah, what you said makes sense, too.
  • It looks computer generated to me.
    I wanted to see a real life pic. Not an obvious photoshop on on an XT..

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @10:30AM (#37985460)

    soaring at over 11 miles a second straight towards Earth

    A bit sensationalist no? More accurate would be "not quite straight toward Earth" or "not toward Earth at all but at some point that passes close to Earth".

    • While there is a bit of sensationalism involved, just imagine if we scaled everything down. Imagine the earth is your face, and the asteroid is a bullet coming within arms length of you. You'd probably feel like it was being shot directly at you as well.
      • by Dunbal (464142) *

        Imagine the earth is your face, and the asteroid is a bullet coming within arms length of you.

        You can't hit me, I'm hiding behind the Library of Congress!

      • So you're suggesting God has bad aim?
      • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @01:17PM (#37987924)

        Probably, but this wouldn't be within arm's length.

        The Earth has a diameter of about 12,756 km. A human face (from tip of nose to back of head) is about 8 inches. (Yes, I actually measured mine.) The asteroid will pass no closer than 324,600km from the Earth. This gives us the equivalent "bullet distance to face" distance of 203.5 inches, or nearly 17 feet. If that's "arm's length", you have some very long arms! Remember, space is big. Mindbogglingly big. (Insert Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy quote here.)

        • You put entirely too much thought into that.
      • While there is a bit of sensationalism involved, just imagine if we scaled everything down. Imagine the earth is your face, and the asteroid is a bullet coming within arms length of you. You'd probably feel like it was being shot directly at you as well.

        If this analogy were scaled correctly, the bullet would be smaller than a bb pellet and the head would be denser than steel, meaning the analogy is also sensationalist.

        Even if the analogy was valid, if you knew that the chance of a bullet hitting you was so low that a calculator with a precision of 1000 decimal places would still show it as zero. would you still be terrified? If the answer is 'yes' then the sensationalism is working.

    • by Convector (897502)

      Well, it might be straight towards the Earth, but by the time it gets here, the Earth will have moved. I'm sure that a vector along the asteroid's direction of motion points toward the Earth at some point in its orbit.

      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        Since neither you nor I are familiar with the orbits in question, I'd say there's a roughly 25% chance of that. There's a 25% chance that it's headed to a point ahead of the Earth, and the Earth will be there AFTER it passes. And there's a 50% chance it's headed to a point above or below the Earth's orbit, and the Earth will never occupy that space at all.
    • by alzoron (210577)

      actually...

      soaring at over 11 miles a second straight
      towards Earth and moon

      When you don't take it out of context it's a 100% accurate statement. The asteroid is heading straight towards the Earth/Moon system, it's just that the portion of it that will be hit is empty space.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      soaring at over 11 miles a second straight towards Earth

      A bit sensationalist no? More accurate would be "not quite straight toward Earth" or "not toward Earth at all but at some point that passes close to Earth".

      They could have gone for awe-inspiring, watch the serene little asteroid drift past mighty Earth, to the tune of Blue Danube. That would be pretty neat.

      Alas, I've grown weary of US media - it feels some necessity to amp-up everything, particularly the mundane or ordinary (or even tragic) because people wouldn't tune in, unless they did -- really, I find myself tuning out.

    • by felipekk (1007591)

      Which made me think:

      Imagine we found another planet, with another intelligent race on it, and for whatever reason we decided we should destroy them. I can't think of an easier manner to achieve that than to build a huge bomb/spacecraft, disguise it as an asteroid and put it in a route that would seemingly pass very close to their planet, but miss it by just a little bit! This way they would probably let it pass by, unsuspecting. And once it's close enough we just use some rockets to get it to hit the planet

  • The rock is bigger then Apophis and no name given?

    Also, in this YouTube animation it looks like it will be a very close miss.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unfti6ZByj0 [youtube.com]
  • That's no asteroid. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DontBlameCanada (1325547) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @10:34AM (#37985520)

    It's a space station.

  • Even if the quality of the photo left is not the greatest, we already know that is not a cube-shaped spaceship. At least there is still hope that change the course by itself.
    • The prow of the Starship Enterprise is definitely not cube shaped. Anyway we can't see past its anti-photon invisibility shield. What you detect is just the shape of the shield, not the spacecraft hidden from you. This is merely the recon mission. To asses our military technology and our ability to retaliate. The overlords will be appearing over the horizon in 2016 Jul 30. They are currently in the process of setting up a Forward Operating Base on the other side of the Moon. Don't say I did not warn you.
  • Wow. The thing is right next to the planet, probably would make a big "kaboom" if it actually hit, and all we have so far is a badly pixelated image.

    I think the tech could use a bit more funding to have more advance warning.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Of course, if we discovered the asteroid that was going to hit us was shaped like a giant phallus or something equally embarrasing we'd be more motivated to deflect it than if it was simply a dot on a RADAR screen.

      • Of course, if we discovered the asteroid that was going to hit us was shaped like a giant phallus or something equally embarrasing we'd be more motivated to deflect it than if it was simply a dot on a RADAR screen.

        No, but it would certainly be proof that God has a sense of humor.

    • by DM9290 (797337)

      They should just hit the Enhance button.

  • by pz (113803) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @10:48AM (#37985708) Journal

    I read the articles. I watched the video. But, I'm confused: why does the asteroid appear side-lit in the images?

    If we're imaging the asteroid based on radar that's transmitted from the Earth, and the asteroid is heading nearly directly toward us, then we should be able to see images of the asteroid nearly full face on, rather than it appearing like a crescent moon with illumination from the sun, right? The radar illumination is from a source that spatially coincides with the receiving apparatus, so the image should appear more like the full moon.

    What am I missing here?

    • Re:Why side-lit? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @10:55AM (#37985786)

      Up in the image is earth-ward. The vertical axis is the pulse return delay, and the horizontal axis is doppler shift of the pulse return.

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        So...it's not a photo after all.

        • What is your definition of 'photo'? Does it involve 'photons'? Can the photons have frequency in the microwave? If I had microwave sensitive eyes would my photos have microwave photons? What if I had a microwave sensitive camera?

          • On the otherhand, if other posters in this thread are correct and the image is only a spectrogram, then certainly the word "photo" does not apply. A photo should be a record of spatial data.

        • So...it's not a photo after all.

          It's awfully hard to get a computer to mix the developer correctly. So we gave up a while ago and decided that we would just use digital simulacrums on the net.

      • by pz (113803)

        Please mod the parent up, that's a remarkably informative reply, especially from an AC.

        The important part, if I understand the technique then, is not that we're painting the surface pixel by pixel, as one might expect for an image produced by scanning a focused beam across the asteroid surface to create a 2D image, and as I expected to see in the photo. Instead of a scanning beam, there's a single pulse that gets sent out with some impressively sophisticated processing on the echo allows that signal to be

      • But I think the articles are making quite a fuss about spatial resolution - are you sure the image doesn't contains some spatial elements as well as just time & frequency?

        From your doppler shift explanation, can we conclude, since the profile of the image is has some width, that the object is rotating? If it were not rotating, then the image would simply be a vertical line?

        Still a bit confusing...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's not being imaged by radar, it's being imaged by a radio-telescope. So, just as with an optical telescope, you'll see it "lit" on the side closest to the source of illuminating radio waves, which will presumably be the sun. There's no source of radio energy at the imaging end.....

      • by DM9290 (797337)

        Mod Parent Up.

      • by arielCo (995647)

        Just to clarify a bit: those radio telescopes can be used like radar guns, sending out short pulses of focused radio waves. These pulses are aimed at the asteroid and move at the speed of light, hitting the rock and bouncing back.

        It's radar

  • If this is a "radar" image, where the telescope sent a pulse and got an image from the reflection, why in the picture does it look like the illumination is comming from the above the object? Shouldn't the whole visible face be illuminated? I would like to see all the detail received by the radar. If this is artificial illumination of a solid model build from the facing radar data, I wish the illuminator position would be near my point of view. If this is the actual radar image, then I am confused about

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      You seem to have a mental link to pz [slashdot.org], although with a lag of 480000 ms.

    • The asteroid is projected on the image in a way that makes the illuminated part be up. With a different projection, if could be down, or on the middle.

      The bright part is what is headed to us.

  • Wow the article that OP linked to is amazing! The only problem with it is that there were not enough exclamation marks! Needs more exclamation marks!

  • Looks like we are pretty safe, but, it does pass through the moons orbit. Which makes me wonder, what if such an object hit the moon? While it probably wouldn't effect us much directly, what would the result be? We would certainly be able to witness the impact even without a telescope.

    How would this effect our society? What would the moon look like afterwards? What kind of science could be done by observing this? Would we wake up as a society to the much more real threat of an impact on earth? Would

    • by PPH (736903)

      I suspect that a lot of the debris blown out of the resulting crater would make its way to the earth. That would result in some spectacular meteor showers and possibly some larger chunks actually reaching the surface.

      It will, of course, demolish the secret moon base, setting the Nazis plans for conquest back a few decades.

      • by greywire (78262)

        There is no Nazi moon base, thats preposterous.

        The aliens who are mining the moon would not have allowed it.

        Unless, of course, they are working together...

  • How does a radio telescope image tell us that an object is "darker than coal"? Unless they meant "Has radio reflectivity less than that of coal"?

  • I always assumed that the DSN antennas were used for spacecraft communications only, had no idea they were used for radio and radar astronomy as well.

  • Damn, if we had any real space capability in the US, 42 years after we walked on the Moon, we'd have been waiting to go out and catch the sucker, and bring it into a stable orbit at geosync. Then we'd have a *real* space station, to handle all kinds of communication, to beam solar power down, and as a station for interplanetary ships....

                      mark

    • by Arlet (29997)

      Why would have a big asteroid in orbit make any of those things easier ?

      And how much fuel would it cost to capture the sucker ?

    • Accuse it of having downloaded a Lady Gaga track.

  • Ying,
    I'm reviewing your trajectory data, Just wanted to double check... I'm sure the astroid is going to miss us, but wanted to double triple check, you remember that probe that sort-of hit mars?
    So your measurements of the acceleration were in inches per second, and slugs of force right? Thats what we have been using here at NASA, we never managed to convert to the metric system in the '70s.
    As far as I can tell, this things going to miss us by a mile right? Or was that a kilo
  • by roc97007 (608802)

    Doesn't look anything like a spaceship.

  • whose name sadly I cannot look up at this time...

    I started shooting the tornado with my 600 mm lens, then switched to the 500, then the 300. when I reached for the 24mm, I decided I had better get out of there

    actual story in the NPPA magazine in the late 70s.

  • Can't we come up with something better than an aircraft carrier for comparison? Does NASA have a list of comparison objects that says "400m = Aircraft Carrier"? First, aircraft carriers are about 330m x 75m x 20m. This thing is a 400m sphere, so it's a whole lot more massive. This thing [nationsonline.org] would probably be a better comparison even though it's only 305m across. Anyone know any good rocks or holes on google earth that are 400m across?
  • by wcrowe (94389) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @02:35PM (#37988918)

    Here in Oklahoma, in the last 24 hours, we've had tornadoes, floods, and another earthquake. I'm not liking the looks of this asteroid thing.

  • If this thing was going to hit the Earth, is there any organisation or government who has a plan to deal with an asteroid impact threat?

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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