Five Tidbits for Asteroid Day

Asteroid Day events are scheduled during the week of 30 June, the date of the largest asteroid impact of Earth in recorded history (Tunguska). Asteroid Day promotes awareness and provides knowledge to the general public about the importance of asteroids in the formation of our universe and the role they play in our solar system today. Asteroid Day TV started streaming on June 27th at 4am PDT.

Below are some tidbits about asteroids to help celebrate the day.

An Asteroid with a Comet-Like Tail

Observations from December and early January show that Asteroid (6478) Gault has developed a comet-like tail.  This small asteroid is spining so fast that it is throwing off material from its surface.

Double Tail of Asteroid 6478 Gault. Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA [CC BY 2.0 ]

Observe Asteroid 18 Melpomene at Opposition

Asteroid 18 Melpomene is currently well placed for observation, located in the constellation Scutum. It is at opposition on July 2nd 2019 and will reach its highest point 31° above the southern horizon around 1 am PDT. It will be visible in small telescopes as its visual magnitude is 9.2

Asteroid 17 Melpomene at Opposition on July 2nd, 2019. Image credit: theskylive.com

Asteroid Re-named as a Tribute to Brian Eno

Astronomers renamed the asteroid formerly known as 81948 (2000 OM69) to “Eno” as a tribute to musician, composer and record producer Brian Eno. Eno was described as “an experimental sculptor of sound” and has become synonymous with ambient music. The honour came just a day after Eno was presented with the Stephen Hawking Medal at Starmus 2019 for the reissue of his 1983 album, “Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks”.

Asteroids can have a Moon

About 15% of asteroids are in binary systems, and the smaller of these pairs is referred to as a moon. The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission proposes to send a pair of space probes to study and demonstrate the effects of crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid. NASA’s Dart spacecraft will impact the moonlet, “Didymoon”, that orbits the larger asteroid Didymos. The European Space Agency’s Hera spacecraft will follow-up with a detail survey of the results of the impact. The mission will help explore the possibility of deflecting this type of asteroid and formulate ways to protect Earth from harmful space rocks.

Astrophysicist and Musician, Brian May, describes ESA’s Hera Mission

Asteroid with Enough Metal to Make Everyone Rich

It’s estimated that asteroid Psyche 16 contains various metals worth $10,000 quadrillion Mining all its metal could make everyone on Earth a billionaire, or could destroy commodity prices and cause the world’s economy to collapse. Pysche 16 is one of the ten most massive asteroids in he asteroid belt. It was discovered by the Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis in 1852

Artist’s conception of the asteroid 16 Psyche. Image credit: Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists classify Psyche 16 as a M-type (metallic) asteroid that is comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel similar to Earth’s core. Psyche 16 could be an exposed core of an early planet, maybe as large as Mars. NASA is launching a mission to probe the asteroid in the summer of 2022. The “Discovery Mission” should arrive at Psyche 16 in 2026. This will be the first mission to explore a world of metal rather than one of rock and ice.