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NASA Space Science

Astronomers Catch Asteroid In Near-Miss Video 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the skin-of-your-teeth dept.
ananyo writes in with a story about an asteroid near miss and a neat video taken by researchers. "It may look like a blurry blob, but researchers using the InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Hawaii have posted a video of 2012 KT42 — a small asteroid that zipped past Earth at a distance of just three Earth radii on 29 May — the sixth closest encounter of any known asteroid. The bright asteroid appears fixed, while background stars zip past but in fact the asteroid is zipping along at 17 kilometres per second. 'You get the view of riding along with it,' says planetary scientist Richard Binzel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who led the observations. At its closest, the asteroid was at a distance between the orbit of the space station (about 1 Earth radii) and geosynchronous satellites (about 6 Earth radii)."
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Astronomers Catch Asteroid In Near-Miss Video

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @05:31AM (#40395941)

    Space station altitude is no where near 1 earth radius!!

  • by esldude (1157749) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @05:38AM (#40395969)
    I conjured up visions of a small asteroid that might have been a real big event if it collided. I am sure 23 feet in diameter would have made for a heck of a meteorite show. Thread to tremendous death and destruction on earth it isn't however. What is the official lower limit for an asteroid?
    • Well, it seems that Ceres [wikipedia.org] (radius=950 km, 590 mi) is still called an asteroid, since it belongs to the Asteroid Belt.
  • 1 Earth radii (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheCreeep (794716) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @05:46AM (#40395997)
    Radius is the single, radii is the plural. When it's only one, we use the singular.
    1 kilometer, 1 liter, 1 metric fuckton. Or as people use across the pond, 1 miles, 1 gallon, 1 imperial fuckton.

    You don't say 1 kilometers, 1 liters and you don't say 1 radii either.
    Hence, it's 1 radius.
    • by TheCreeep (794716)
      s/miles/mile
    • Hence it is 1 prius, 2 prii. On the other hand, it is 1 Wii, 2 Wius :-D
      • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @08:33AM (#40396745)
        In Latin "Prius" is not a noun, and so radius/radii does not apply. Normal rules of English mean the plural of Prius the vehicle is Priuses. (And the plural of octopus is similarly octopuses; it is not a Latin word but the Greek "oktopous", and its Greek plural is oktopodes.)

        As the Latin tag says, "Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius" (those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they send mad thinking about the plural of Prius".

        • by arth1 (260657)

          In Latin "Prius" is not a noun, and so radius/radii does not apply. Normal rules of English mean the plural of Prius the vehicle is Priuses. (And the plural of octopus is similarly octopuses; it is not a Latin word but the Greek "oktopous", and its Greek plural is oktopodes.)

          Octopodes is acceptable in English too, but I think most people would go "huh?"

          Virus is another example - it's a collective noun like money or crockery, and the normal plural form is "virus" and not "viruses", unless you intend to count the groups, like in "moneys" and "crockeries".

          I'm more concerned with the "near-miss", which is a verbose way of saying hit.

          • by jonadab (583620)
            > Octopodes is acceptable in English too

            Umm, no. English only imports plural forms from the source language when the singular form retains the singular markings from the source language (e.g., "alumni" because the singular form "alumnus" has that very recognizable Latin -us singular ending). The plural would only be "octopodes" if the singular were "octopous" (which would rhyme with "papoose"). The root may come from Greek, but the inflectional ending does not.
          • A near miss is just that; a miss that was close to the target. Example: "The shell was a near miss but the helmsman on the bridge was killed by a splinter".
            • by arth1 (260657)

              A near miss is just that; a miss that was close to the target. Example: "The shell was a near miss but the helmsman on the bridge was killed by a splinter".

              Yes, that is a near miss, pronounced as two separate words. Which isn't what we're talking about here. That hyphen is important, as it changes the meaning quite a bit.

              A near-hit = anear-hit = nearly a hit
              A near hit = a hit that was near (they bombed the ammo depot next to you)
              A near-miss = anear-miss = nearly a miss
              A near miss = a miss that was near (they bombed the hospital next to you)

    • by JMJimmy (2036122)

      +1 metric fuckton

    • by nomel (244635)

      How do they measure the distance of something like this?

  • Units and news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @05:47AM (#40396003)

    the asteroid was at a distance between the orbit of the space station (about 1 Earth radii) and geosynchronous satellites (about 6 Earth radii)."

    How dumb do you have to imagine your audience to create non-standard units on every piece of news?

    Also, with give such an imprecise distance as "between 6353km and 38118km"?

    At least speed came in km/s instead of Sheppeis per Tatum grid.

    • Re:Units and news (Score:4, Informative)

      by MacTO (1161105) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:19AM (#40396133)

      They use "non-standard units" to give the reader a mental picture of the near miss. It has nothing to do with perceived stupidity.

      • Re:Units and news (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:24AM (#40396157)

        They use "non-standard units" to give the reader a mental picture of the near miss. It has nothing to do with perceived stupidity.

        Ok. I used "stupidity" for "the inability of forming a mental picture for 10000 km".

        • It is possible to be highly intelligent, yet not have the ability to make a good mental picture for 10000 km, especially if you don't know the size of the earth or the distance of various satellites orbiting it.

          • by Thanshin (1188877)

            It is possible to be highly intelligent, yet not have the ability to make a good mental picture for 10000 km, especially if you don't know the size of the earth or the distance of various satellites orbiting it.

            I don't wish to go into definitions of "intelligence" but you don't really need to know the size of the earth (although it's quite sad) to know what ten thousand kms are.

            Unless you don't know the size of your own country, or region. You would also have to not know the length of the equator, how far you can travel by car in a day, etc.

            We're not talking parsecs here; it's ten fricking thousand kilometers. I think it's a knowledge that can be assumed taking into account the nature of the news.

            • Sure, 10000 km is 10000 km, everybody knows that. But to make a mental image, you need to put that in scale with the earth, moon and satellites. Knowing these sizes is just memorization of a bunch of trivia, often a sign of intelligence, but not always. I know a 6 year old kid who scored 135 on his IQ test, but failed the question about which day comes after Thursday.

            • Re:Units and news (Score:4, Insightful)

              by MacTO (1161105) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:58AM (#40396283)

              So do I get to choose a topic that is outside of your domain of knowledge, declare that any reasonable person should know it, then state that anyone who doesn't know it is stupid. Because that is pretty much what you're saying.

              Believe it or not, stuff like the radius of the earth, the length of the equator, or even the size of your own country is called trivia. Most people don't know them because they don't have an immediate bearing on their life. That doesn't make them stupid.

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by Thanshin (1188877)

                Believe it or not, stuff like the radius of the earth, the length of the equator, or even the size of your own country is called trivia. Most people don't know them because they don't have an immediate bearing on their life. That doesn't make them stupid.

                I disagree. Not knowing the radius of the earth to the point of not being able to visualize 10000km, which would essentially mean not knowing whether it's closer to 1000 or to 100000km (as with any better precision than that you already surpass the articles') isn't trivia for me.

                You scare me, btw. I now wonder what other things you consider to be trivial knowledge. The motion of the planets? What are those bright spots on the night sky? How does an engine work? How does a lightbulb work?

                • I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.

                  A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lu

                • by kwerle (39371)

                  I disagree. Not knowing the radius of the earth to the point of not being able to visualize 10000km, which would essentially mean not knowing whether it's closer to 1000 or to 100000km (as with any better precision than that you already surpass the articles') isn't trivia for me.

                  trivia plural of trivia
                  Noun:
                  Details, considerations, or pieces of information of little importance or value.

                  I'll bite. What practical/important use do you have for that piece of information?

                  'cause I don't have any, and I never have. Though, as it turns out, I used to work (in a data/IT support role) on a spacecraft. I guess you could say that I used to work indirectly for NASA.

                  So I think you're right - most folks would probably guess that the earth is between 1000-100000km in radius.

                  But I still don't kno

                • I disagree. Not knowing the radius of the earth to the point of not being able to visualize 10000km, which would essentially mean not knowing whether it's closer to 1000 or to 100000km (as with any better precision than that you already surpass the articles') isn't trivia for me.

                  To summarize: You've watched a lot of scifi, so you can paint a picture in your head you think is right and you call that 'intelligence'.

                • by jonadab (583620)
                  > You scare me, btw. I now wonder what other things you consider to be trivial knowledge.

                  Oh, come on. If the radius of the earth in flipping kilometers isn't trivial, I'm sure I have no idea what would be. I suppose you also think everyone should memorize fifty digits of e (I only know thirteen digits), what month the Battle of Carchemish took place (I only know the year), the complete list of sound changes from Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic (I only know about a third of them), which of the thr
              • I agree, every now and then newspapers write panic-stories on the lack of "general knowledge" of university students.
                Then one can read: 73% of university students dont know what is celebrated on Easter! Or: 81% of senior high-school students have no idea when the Battle of Waterloo was fought. Thing is, just as you say, that it is trivial for most people (including students).
                The moment that Theology students dont know what Easter is / history students dont know when the Battle of Waterloo was fought / The r
              • by delt0r (999393)
                The relevant quote is:

                Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

                --Albert Einstein

            • by Anonymous Coward
              And the news story came out of the United States where no one has any feel for the length of a kilometer. Instead kilometers are used to confuse people.

              Not buying it? Ok...
              You are familiar with a wooden popsicle stick aren't you? You have held one and you would be able to tell someone if one was longer or shorter then normal right?
              Without measuring, using a calculator or calculating on a piece of paper... Tell me roughly how many popsicle sticks there are to a kilometer?


              Just because someone is intima
              • by Thanshin (1188877)

                Just because someone is intimately familiar with the size of something in no way makes it easy or intuitive to convert that to something that is on a massively different scale.

                "the asteroid was at a distance between the orbit of the space station (about 1 Earth radii) and geosynchronous satellites (about 6 Earth radii)."

                1 to 6.

                That's like not knowing how many times your height is a bus stop.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I just imagine your mom.

        • Ok. I used "stupidity" for "the inability of forming a mental picture for 10000 km".

          That isn't a measure of stupidity, it's a measure of anyone who's seen yo mama!

    • Re:Units and news (Score:4, Insightful)

      by danhuby (759002) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:13AM (#40396347) Homepage

      On the contrary, Earth radii is a useful unit when explaining how close something came to the earth. It helps to form a mental picture.

      For example, if you state that the moon is 384,400km from the earth, that doesn't really mean much - even if you know the diameter of the earth it's not as easy to form a mental picture as it is if you say that it is 62 Earth radii.

      Personally though I would have thought diameters would be better than radii? I.e. the moon is 31 Earth diameters (or simply 31 'Earths') away. (As a side note I think that is much further than most people would guess it is).

      • Actually, when I first saw a scale drawing of the Earth-Moon system, I was shocked to see how close the Moon actually is.

        A fun thing to do is ask people to stretch out their arm, and have them indicate how big the moon is between their thumb and index finger.

      • It surprised me too. I think the analogy I saw was one where you have one person holding a basketball, which respresents Earth, and another, a tennis ball, which represents the moon; the two people have to stand about 25 feet (7.69 meters) apart to scale the distance. I would've thought maybe 10 to 12 feet.
    • by Teun (17872)
      I thought this was a very acceptable way of presenting the relative distance of the occurrence.
      Those in the know can easily convert it to real measurements in their favourite units but for the layman the relative distance is probably easier to grasp.
    • by duinsel (935058)
      Moreover, ISS orbits with an apogee of 405 km above ground according to Wikipedia, while earths radius has a minimum of 6,357 km according to the same source. Not sure where the asteroid flew, but unless you mean that ISS orbits ~1 earth radius from the center of the earth, 1 earth radius does not equal the the orbit of the ISS.
    • by EmagGeek (574360)

      How many parsecs did it take to zip by the Earth, and how does that compare to the less than 12 Parsecs it took the Millennium Falcon to do the Kessel Run?

    • Re:Units and news (Score:5, Informative)

      by Muad'Dave (255648) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:42AM (#40396469) Homepage

      Many sites [spaceweather.com] that report on PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids) use LD, meaning Lunar Distance. That's pretty descriptive to the general public - "Wow that thing flew right between Earth and the Moon!". According to their archive, KT42 missed Earth by 0.05 LD and was #6 on the all-time closest flyby list [blogspot.com].

  • It was only 7 meters across. No impending doom this time folks.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Still... Impeding-doom asteroids routinely pass between the Earth and the Moon and are detected after the fact.

      I say we should forget about the Moon or about Mars. It is time that Earth sets up a good detection system (maybe an orbital array of Hubble-like telescopes ?) and begins thinking about mitigation plans for the case where a dangerous asteroid is located.
      • Historically speaking, the chance of being killed by an asteroid is low enough that I'm not going to worry about it.

      • by delt0r (999393)
        No they don't...
        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          Any object with a MOID lower than 0.0026 AU is : http://www.brera.mi.astro.it/sormano/sael.html#SAEL [astro.it]

          That is, several a year, and depending on the size, several a month.
          • by delt0r (999393)
            And that is things 250m diameter and smaller. Hardly impending-doom events. So the original statement is still wrong. There are not a whole bunch of doomsday level asteroids not getting detected till closest approach all the time.

            If its big enough to be a doomsday (impending-doom), its big enough to detect early enough.
    • by gtvr (1702650)
      So Bruce Willis can get back to his regular job?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:14AM (#40396115)

    Near miss? Near hit, rather....

    • by KreAture (105311)
      Yes, I wish they would stop using the term. Is is not just misleading and stupid, it's wrong too.
      A near miss relates to situations where chance played a role averting a disaster. Since this asteroid has been traveling on it's well-defined path and wil lcontinues to do so, modified ofcource by bodys it passes, it has nothing to do with chance and no ammount of butteryflys flapping their wings could have made it hit earth.
      It was rather:
      - a near hit
      - a narrow escape
      - a close encounter
      - a close call

      Sinc
      • You don't compare a near miss to a near hit. You compare a near miss to a FAR miss. Near is referring to distance. It is not being used as a synonym for "almost."
        • by KreAture (105311)
          I know it's not, but it is being used to describe an event that is not goverened by fluke chances and moment, but of gravity. It is 100% deterministic and we can calculate it. Compared to turbulant flow of gas/liquid for example, it's simple...
          Then there's the fact that it's called a new miss when a near miss would be a glancing hit semantically speaking.
    • by CompComp (1838698) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:02AM (#40396295)
      The asteroid missed. It didn't miss by by a large amount- it came near. It was a near miss. It didn't hit, so it wasn't a "near hit" or a "far hit".
    • Sigh.
      Near != nearly. Compare to "narrow escape".
    • by Zelaron (1358987)

      Near miss? Near hit, rather....

      In this context, the word "near" is not being used to mean "almost" but "close in proximity." It would be nice if the use of "near miss" would stop on the grounds that it's ambiguous (rather than necessarily wrong, which it isn't).

      • by jonadab (583620)
        > It would be nice if the use of "near miss" would stop on the grounds that it's ambiguous

        It's not ambiguous. In the entire history of the English language the phrase "near miss" has only ever been used with one meaning. The fact that a small handful of misguided pedants think it should mean something different from what it obviously does mean does not make it ambiguous. The pedants are just wrong -- and even they clearly understand what the writer intended to say.
  • Downloadable video (Score:5, Informative)

    by k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:23AM (#40396149)
    I can't view anything in my Flash-free browser. After some searching I found what looks like a downloadable video of the asteroid flyby (56 MB) [vimeo.com]. From the caption:

    The sixth closest asteroid encounter on record, the May 29 near-miss by the object catalogued as "2012 KT42", was tracked by the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii as it whizzed inside the orbital distance of Earth geosynchronous satellites (6.6 Earth radii or an altitude of 22,000 miles).

  • Near Miss (Score:5, Funny)

    by erktrek (473476) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:41AM (#40396227)

    Here's a phrase that apparently the airlines simply made up: near miss. They say that if 2 planes almost collide, it's a near miss. Bullshit, my friend. It's a near hit! A collision is a near miss.
    [WHAM! CRUNCH!]
    "Look, they nearly missed!"
    "Yes, but not quite.”

    George Carlin

    • by danhuby (759002)

      I think it means that is was a miss that was near.

    • All hits are near hits. This cant hit that unless they are near each other. But a miss could be a far miss or a near miss. That is why they called it a near miss to distinguish it from the safe and ignorable far miss.
      • by Twinbee (767046)

        All hits are near hits

        Not if you translate 'near' to mean 'nearly', and when you say "that nearly hit", that definitely implies it didn't hit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Holy crap dude! The space station orbits at about 5% of the earth's radius

    space station altitude = 370 km
    radius of earth = 6384 km

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @09:35AM (#40397385) Journal
    If we are sending a manned mission to an asteroid, why not put a small unit on these asteroids, with carmera, drill, etc. and let it continue with the asteroid. The other idea would be to catch one and try to manuvuer it. By doing that, we can come up with ideas on how to take on one that will hit us, but also how to mine them.
    • Yeah, NASA has never thought of this, great ideas!

    • If I'm not mistaken, we can't accelerate a rocket-powered device to that speed that close to Earth. It'd take more time/distance, and actually better technology because the current record holder for the fastest man made object is the New Horizons probe, which left earth orbit at 16 km/s. The asteroid was cruising at 17km/s. For something bigger, well the ISS is at about 7.6 km/s for example. That doesn't mean it can't go faster, it just doesn't need to to stay in orbit but they probably didn't prep it to
      • Oh and I guess I'll also preemptively post the cliche slashdot comment "but the solar system is cruising through the galaxy at xxx KM/s so it's actually xxx + 16KM/s"
      • We capture small asteroids every so often which will orbit earth for a month to several years. We can speed up to those speeds, land, control the asteroid, and then either send it on its way, or slow it down to the ISS speed.

        For those that will get nervous, the moon also captures some.
  • We have them all the time. And they end up getting called meteors. But they were asteroids once too...
  • "Bullshit, my friend. It's a near hit! A collision is a near miss. " - George Carlin

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