This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

26 September 2009

Article on NEOImpactor

Selections from the article (really about the NEOImpactor model). Strange that the article references a public lecture Hawking gave in 1996.

Stephen Hawking believes that one of the major factors in the possible scarcity of intelligent life in our galaxy is the high probability of an asteroid or comet colliding with inhabited planets. We have observed, Hawking points out in Life in the Universe, the collision of a comet, Schumacher-Levi, with Jupiter (below), which produced a series of enormous fireballs, plumes many thousands of kilometers high, hot "bubbles" of gas in the atmosphere, and large dark "scars" on the atmosphere which had lifetimes on the order of weeks.

“The threat of the Earth being hit by an asteroid is increasingly being accepted as the single greatest natural disaster hazard faced by humanity,” according to Nick Bailey of the University of Southampton's School of Engineering Sciences team, who has developed a threat identifying program.

The team used raw data from multiple impact simulations to rank each country based on the number of times and how severely they would be affected by each impact. The software, called NEOimpactor (from NASA's "NEO" or Near Earth Object program), has been specifically developed for measuring the impact of 'small' asteroids under one kilometer in diameter.

Early results indicate that in terms of population lost, China, Indonesia, India, Japan and the United States face the greatest overall threat; while the United States, China, Sweden, Canada and Japan face the most severe economic effects due to the infrastructure destroyed.

The top ten countries most at risk are China, Indonesia, India, Japan, the United States, the Philippines, Italy, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Nigeria.

Link: Article

Link: Stephen Hawking Lecture "Life in the Universe"

25 September 2009

New Potentially Hazardous Asteroid: 2009 ST19

Observation of 2009 ST19 on 23 Septemer remotely from the Mayhill Station (NM) of the GRAS network (Source: Remanzacco Observatory)

From a blot post from Remanzacco Observatory:

This minor planet, belonging to the "Apollo" class, is also flagged as a "Potentially Hazardous Asteroid", an object that, because of its orbital parameters, might represent a possible threat of impact for planet Earth (

It has beeen discovered serendipitously by the Spanish amateur astronomer J. M. Bosch Santa Maria de Montmagastrell, MPC#B74 on 2009, Sept. 16.2, ay magnitude about 17. At that time it was posted on the NEO-CP webpage of the Minor Planet Center as "jmbo11"; after a couple of days it was withdrawn, because it was not confirmed by any further observations.

On 2009, Sept. 22, the LINEAR sky survey picked-up a fast moving object, that was posted in the NEO-Cp as "BQ24981". After some follow-up observations from various sites, on 2009 Sept. 23 the MPC published M.P.E.C. 2009-S72 (, informing that the two objects mentioned before were actually the same celestial body.

We performed some follow-up of this object on 2009, Sept.23.1, remotely from the Mayhill Station (NM) of the GRAS network. You can see our image here:

According to the NEODyS webpage this object. about 0.5-Km in diameter, made a close pass to Earth on 1980, Oct. 4, at a minimum possible distance of about 0.009 AU (nominal distance of about 0.04 AU).

Congratulations to J. M. Bosch for his find.

E. Guido, G. Sostero, P. Camilleri, M. Jaeger, E. Prosperi, W. Vollmann

Link: Remanzacco Observatory Blog Post on 2009 ST19

From an article in the Barcelona Reporter:

After six days of monitoring by the Minor Planet Centre at the University of Harvard, it has been termed, asteroid 2009 ST19.
Lieida professor spots large asteroid over 1 kilometre in diameter, 645,000 miles from Earth.

Professor Josep Maria Bosc from the Field Learning Observation Centre of the Universe, discovered the asteroid on September 16 from his observatory, on Montmagastrell Santa Maria (Lleida) , which in real terms means the asteroid came the closest to Earth than any other in the past.

After six days of monitoring by the Minor Planet Centre at the University of Harvard, it has been termed, asteroid 2009 ST19. This is classed as an Apollo, a potentially dangerous kind to the planet because its orbit overlaps with that of Earth. The asteroid is also the largest, at more than a kilometre in diameter, that has come close to Earth. At the time of its closest approach it passed 645,000 miles abve the Earth.

The last similar incident dates back to 1937, when the asteroid Hermes passed 750,000 miles over the Earth.

Link: Barcelona Reporter Article

Link: Minor Planet Center Circular for 2009 ST19

24 September 2009

CBC Article Misinterprets NASA Human NEO Mission talk: "NASA, U of Alberta to propose asteroid landing"

This article suggests a human asteroid landing mission announcement will be made at an upcoming symposium. I remain skeptical that this is the actual intent of the talks that are referred to in the article below. I think the article misstates the talks the Dr. Paul Abell will be giving on Friday September 25 and Saturday September 26 2009 at the University of Alberta’s Institute for Space Science, Exploration and Technology's Space Exploration Symposium 2009. The talks, one of which is entitled "Scientific Exploration of Near-Earth Objects via the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle”, are both similar in nature and I believe will talk about the recent NASA Human NEO study. I would find it hard to believe that this is an actual mission announcement as stated in the article ("NASA and the University of Alberta are set to propose a team-up that could see a manned landing on an asteroid."). It may be the Univ. of Alberta may contribute to a future STUDY of such a mission, not in any actual mission go ahead.

As part of the announcement the Univ. of Alberta has placed an animation on their website of such a human mission.

Link: Human NEO Mission Animation

NASA, U of Alberta to propose asteroid landing
24 Thursday, September 24, 2009
CBC News

The university's Institute for Space Science, Exploration and Technology will announce the proposal at a two-day symposium beginning on Friday in Edmonton. NASA planetary scientist Paul Abell will detail his plan to land on an as-yet-undetermined asteroid, where he hopes useful minerals could be discovered.

NASA may partner with the university because of its expertise in examining space rocks. Earth and atmospheric sciences Prof. Chris Herd could earn a spot on the team.

An asteroid landing would appear similar to a moon landing, according to an animated video simulation released by the university on Thursday. A landing craft would descend onto the surface of the asteroid, and astronauts would exit and conduct experiments and collect samples.

Peter Smith, who worked on NASA's Phoenix Mars mission, will also give a keynote during the symposium. Smith has worked closely with Carlos Lange, an engineering professor at the university who designed a wind-speed indicator used in the Phoenix mission.

Link: CBC Article

Link: Univ. of Alberta ISSET Space Exploration Symposium Agenda (PDF)

Link: NASA NEO Study Page

Link: IAF 2007 Paper on NASA NEO Study (PDF)

23 September 2009

New Scientist 26 September 2009 Issue: Article and Editorial on NEOs

Issue number 2727

The 26 September 2009 issue of NewScientist has an article and editorial on NEOs. The article is on a table-top scenario exercise conducted by the U.S. government on response to a potential Earth-threatening NEO. The editorial (listed here first) discusses this exercise.

Preparing for an asteroid strike
23 September 2009

Now we have seen the results of the first exercise ever to test plans for what to do if an asteroid is on collision course with Earth (see "It's behind you!"), and they do not inspire confidence. We still have a long way to go before we can say we are prepared for this cosmic threat.

Improved early-warning capabilities are one cost-effective solution. There are telescopes on the drawing board that could find objects as small as 140 metres in diameter. That's a big advance on what we can do now, even if objects 30 to 50 metres across are more numerous and therefore arguably more dangerous.

There are telescopes on the drawing board that could find objects as small as 140 metres in diameter

More in-depth exercises are needed too, to hone our plans for communication and coordination should a city find itself in the target zone of an incoming asteroid.

Better still, of course, would be having the capability to fend off dangerous asteroids. It has long been recognised that the quick and dirty way to do this is to explode a nuclear bomb nearby to blast the asteroid off-course. That means we should revisit the international treaties that prohibit the launching of nukes into space, and try to come up with carefully drafted wording to allow their use if an asteroid threatens.

Whatever action is taken needs to be proportionate to the risk. The likelihood of being mashed by a skyscraper-sized object is tiny compared to the risk of routine insults from hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters of entirely terrestrial origin. Last year such events killed 236,000 people and caused damage worth $181 billion.

Resources are finite, and any plans to construct cosmic defences need to be measured against down-to-earth goals. When assessing the case for a better census of dangerous asteroids and their orbits, for example, let's not forget that this could also help us understand how our solar system came to be.

Link: Editorial

Asteroid attack: putting Earth's defences to the test

David Shiga
23 September 2009

Selections from the article...

IT LOOKS inconsequential enough, the faint little spot moving leisurely across the sky. The mountain-top telescope that just detected it is taking it very seriously, though. It is an asteroid, one never seen before. Rapid-survey telescopes discover thousands of asteroids every year, but there's something very particular about this one. The telescope's software decides to wake several human astronomers with a text message they hoped they would never receive. The asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. It is the size of a skyscraper and it's big enough to raze a city to the ground. Oh, and it will be here in three days.

Far-fetched it might seem, but this scenario is all too plausible. Certainly it is realistic enough that the US air force recently brought together scientists, military officers and emergency-response officials for the first time to assess the nation's ability to cope, should it come to pass.

They were asked to imagine how their respective organisations would respond to a mythical asteroid called Innoculatus striking the Earth after just three days' warning. The asteroid consisted of two parts: a pile of rubble 270 metres across which was destined to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa, and a 50-metre-wide rock heading, in true Hollywood style, directly for Washington DC.

The exercise, which took place in December 2008, exposed the chilling dangers asteroids pose. Not only is there no plan for what to do when an asteroid hits, but our early-warning systems - which could make the difference between life and death - are woefully inadequate. The meeting provided just the wake-up call organiser Peter Garreston had hoped to create. He has long been concerned about the threat of an impact. "As a taxpayer, I would appreciate my air force taking a look at something that would be certainly as bad as nuclear terrorism in a city, and potentially a civilisation-ending event," he says.

Link: Article

22 September 2009

Misc. Current Papers: Pan-STARRS 1 Detection Efficiency, (101955) 1999 RQ36 Impact Probability=10^-3, Yarkovsky on Eros/Itokawa, 2007 WD5 and Mars

New papers on asteroids published in the literature recently.

Detection of Earth-impacting asteroids with the next generation all-sky surveys
Volume 203, Issue 2, October 2009, Pages 472-485

Peter Vereš a, Robert Jedicke b, Richard Wainscoat b, Mikael Granvik b, Steve Chesley c, Shinsuke Abe d, Larry Denneau b and Tommy Grav e

a-Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics, Comenius University, Mlynska Dolina, 842 48 Bratislava, Slovakia
b-University of Hawai’i, Institute for Astronomy, 2680 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822-1897, USA
c-Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
d-Institute of Astronomy, National Central University, No. 300, Jhongda Rd, Jhongli City, Taoyuan County 320, Taiwan
e-Department of Physics and Astronomy, Bloomberg 243, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218-2686, USA


We have performed a simulation of a next generation sky survey’s (Pan-STARRS 1) efficiency for detecting Earth-impacting asteroids. The steady-state sky-plane distribution of the impactors long before impact is concentrated towards small solar elongations (Chesley, S.R., Spahr T.B., 2004. In: Belton, M.J.S., Morgan, T.H., Samarashinha, N.H., Yeomans, D.K. (Eds.), Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 22–37) but we find that there is interesting and potentially exploitable behavior in the sky-plane distribution in the months leading up to impact. The next generation surveys will find most of the dangerous impactors (>140 m diameter) during their decade-long survey missions though there is the potential to miss difficult objects with long synodic periods appearing in the direction of the Sun, as well as objects with long orbital periods that spend much of their time far from the Sun and Earth. A space-based platform that can observe close to the Sun may be needed to identify many of the potential impactors that spend much of their time interior to the Earth’s orbit. The next generation surveys have a good chance of imaging a bolide like 2008 TC3 before it enters the atmosphere but the difficulty will lie in obtaining enough images in advance of impact to allow an accurate pre-impact orbit to be computed.

Link: Icarus Article (Detection of Earth-impacting asteroids with the next generation all-sky surveys)

Long term impact risk for (101955) 1999 RQ36
Volume 203, Issue 2, October 2009, Pages 460-471

Andrea Milani a, Steven R. Chesley b, Maria Eugenia Sansaturio c, Fabrizio Bernardi a, d, Giovanni B. Valsecchi d and Oscar Arratia c

a-Department of Mathematics, University of Pisa, Largo Pontecorvo 5, 56127 Pisa, Italy
b-Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Calif. Inst. of Tech., Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
c-E.T.S. de Ingenieros Industriales, University of Valladolid, Paseo del Cauce 59, 47011 Valladolid, Spain
d-IASF-Roma, INAF, via Fosso del Cavaliere 100, 00133 Roma, Italy


The potentially hazardous Asteroid (101955) 1999 RQ36 has a possibility of colliding with the Earth in the latter half of the 22nd century, well beyond the traditional 100-year time horizon for routine impact monitoring. The probabilities accumulate to a total impact probability of approximately 10-3, with a pair of closely related routes to impact in 2182 comprising more than half of the total. The analysis of impact possibilities so far in the future is strongly dependent on the action of the Yarkovsky effect, which raises new challenges in the careful assessment of longer term impact hazards.

Even for asteroids with very precisely determined orbits, a future close approach to Earth can scatter the possible trajectories to the point that the problem becomes like that of a newly discovered asteroid with a weakly determined orbit. If the scattering takes place late enough so that the target plane uncertainty is dominated by Yarkovsky accelerations then the thermal properties of the asteroid, which are typically unknown, play a major role in the impact assessment. In contrast, if the strong planetary interaction takes place sooner, while the Yarkovsky dispersion is still relatively small compared to that derived from the measurements, then precise modeling of the nongravitational acceleration may be unnecessary.

Link: Icarus Article (Long term impact risk for (101955) 1999 RQ36)

The Yarkovsky effect is not responsible for small crater depletion on Eros and Itokawa
Volume 203, Issue 1, September 2009, Pages 112-118

David P. O’Brien a

a-Planetary Science Institute, 1700 E. Ft. Lowell, Suite 106, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA


The near-Earth Asteroids Eros and Itokawa show a pronounced lack of small (less, approximate100 m) craters, the vast majority of which were formed during their time in the main belt, and this has been cited as possible evidence that small (less, approximate10 m) impactors are efficiently removed from the main belt by the Yarkovsky effect. Using well-tested models for the evolution of the main-belt size distribution and the evolution of crater populations on asteroid surfaces, I show that a pronounced lack of small impactors would require size-dependent removal far stronger than can result from the Yarkovsky effect (or any other known process). Furthermore, such strong removal would lead to wavelike perturbations in the main-belt and near-Earth asteroid size distributions that are inconsistent with their observed size distributions, as well as the cratering records on asteroid surfaces. A more likely explanation is that processes on asteroid surfaces, such as seismic shaking, are responsible for erasing small craters after they form.

Link: Icarus Article (The Yarkovsky effect is not responsible for small crater depletion on Eros and Itokawa)

Impact solutions of Asteroid 2007 WD5 with Mars
Volume 203, Issue 1, September 2009, Pages 119-123

I. Włodarczyka a

a-Chorzów Astronomical Observatory, Al. Planetarium 4, WPKiW, 41-500 Chorzów, Poland


A method for computing impact probabilities between asteroids and the planet Mars is presented that uses impact clones and validation analysis based on a normal distribution of computed errors. This method uses OrbFit software, and we present a calculation of the impact probabilities between Asteroid 2007 WD5 and Mars, which passed within about 20,000 km of the martian surface on January 30, 2008. This method can be generalized for computing impact probabilities between asteroids and other planets including Earth. Presented method applies in principal the same technique already in use for years at the JPL NASA and by the group of researchers at the University of Pisa [Milani, A., Chesley, S.R., Sansaturio, M.E., Tommei, G., Valsecchi, G.B., 2005a. Icarus 173, 362].

Link: Icarus Article (Impact solutions of Asteroid 2007 WD5 with Mars)

Official: "Russian sample mission to Martian moon delayed until 2011"

From the article...

MOSCOW, September 21 (RIA Novosti) - The launch of the Russian mission to one Mars' moons has been delayed until 2011, said Lev Zeleny, chief of the Institute of Space Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"I can officially announce that the Phobos-Grunt mission has been postponed until 2011," he said.

He cited a tight schedule and the final testing of all systems as reasons for the delay. The launch of the mission was initially scheduled for 2009.

Phobos-Grunt is an unmanned lander that will spend several months studying the planet and its moons from orbit before landing on Phobos. Under the new schedule, the return vehicle with soil samples is expected to be back on Earth in 2012.

Link: RIA Novosti Article

21 September 2009

Planetary Society Blog Story: "A piece of an asteroid returns to the telescope that discovered it"

Richard Kowalski, founder and administrator of the Minor Planet Mailing List, holds a piece of Almahatta Sitta, the meteorite that is all that remains of asteroid 2008 TC3. 2008 TC3 was discovered by Kowalski using the 1.5-meter telescope (background) of the Catalina Sky Survey, located on the peak of Mt. Lemmon, near Tucson, Arizona. Credit: © Richard Kowalski, Full Moon

From Planetary Society Blog (Emily Lakdawalla)...

A piece of an asteroid returns to the telescope that discovered it
20 September 2009

The discovery of asteroid 2008 TC3 just before it crashed to Earth was one of the most amazing stories of last year, even before its remains were discovered strewn across the Nubian desert a few months later, turning it into the first asteroid ever that was studied both in space and after it became a meteorite. Now the story has come full circle: here's a photo of asteroid hunter Richard Kowalski (past winner of one of The Planetary Society's Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grants) holding a tiny piece of Almahatta Sitta, the name given to the meteorites that are all that's left of asteroid 2008 TC3. Kowalski is standing in front of the 1.5-meter telescope at the heart of the Catalina Sky Survey, one of the most productive facilities in the global campaign to hunt for near-Earth asteroids. The piece of the asteroid was a gift to him from friends and well-wishers on the Minor Planet Mailing List, which Kowalski founded in order to help connect professional and amateur astronomers. An MPML member (and another Shoemaker grant winner) Roy Tucker posted: "It's official! Richard Kowalski is the first person in history to possess a piece of an object that he discovered in space."

In related news, the scientists who led the Sudanese field trip that recovered those pieces of Almahatta Sitta have now organized a workshop in Khartoum on the asteroid and its meteorites, followed by a weeklong field trip to search for more, from December 5 to 15 of this year. Read all about it here. The deadline for registration is very, very soon. I want to go to this workshop so badly I can taste it -- what a unique subject, venue, and opportunity!! -- and I'd pay my own way if money were the problem. But that's not the problem; the problem is the 5-month-old who's utterly dependent upon me. So I won't be going.

If there is anybody reading this blog who will be going and has any interest in writing any journal entries (in real time or after the fact) about the trip, I would desperately like to have any news about it for posting here -- send me an email.

Link: Planetary Society Blog Entry: 20 September 2009

Phobos-Grunt Mission Delayed Until 2011?

From Wikipedia update...

On 16 September, 2009, sources in the space industry told Interfax that Russian space officials will announce a delay of the mission to 2011 in a few days. cited industry sources as saying the launch will likely be postponed because the addition of China's 110 kilogramme (242 pound) probe had overloaded the mission.

From Interfax...

Russia puts off unmanned mission to Phobos till 2011 - source

MOSCOW. Sept 16 (Interfax) - A Russian mission to send a space probe to collect samples from Phobos, one of Mars' two moons, has been put off until 2011, a source in Russia's space industry said.

The launch of a Russian unmanned spacecraft to be named Phobos-Grunt was scheduled to start in 2009.

"Today there has been a conference of space scientists and space industrialists at which the prospects for the flight of [unmanned spacecraft Phobos-Grunt] to Phobos were discussed. The point of view that this flight should be put off until 2011 won out," the source told Interfax on Wednesday.

The Federal Space Agency and Russian Academy of Sciences would publish this decision within the next two days, the source said.

Link: Interfax News Report

Link: MarsDaily Article

Link: Wikipedia (Phobos-Grunt)

Link: Russianspaceweb: Phobos-Grunt Mission

20 September 2009

Paper: "Trajectory Diversion of an Earth-Threatening Asteroid via Massive Tether-Ballast System"

Paper from AIAA Space 2009 Conference on asteroid mitigation technique using tether and ballast mass. Abstract follows...

"Trajectory Diversion of an Earth-Threatening Asteroid via Massive Tether-Ballast System"
David B. French, Andre P. Mazzoleniy
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27695

Researchers have provided a large volume of information related to the location and mitigation of Earth-threatening asteroids. Several alternatives have been proposed for the deviation of such asteroids. This paper focuses on a mitigation technique that was not included among the alternatives listed in the report, namely the use of a long tether and ballast mass to divert an asteroid. In a previous study, such a tether was modeled as massless and rigid. For this study, it was desired to relax this assumption, so a model was developed to include tether mass. This paper shows that the results using the massive model validate qualitatively the results of the previous study which demonstrate that a tether-ballast system can be used to successfully divert an Earth-threatening asteroid.

Link: AIAA Paper Preview (PDF)

YouTube Video: "Asteroid! The Doomsday Rock"

Link: YouTube Video (Asteroid! The Doomsday Rock)


Link: YouTube Video (IMPACTO DE ASTEROIDE 2019 (1))

YouTube Video: Don Quijote Asteroid Deflection Mission

Link: YouTube Video (Don Quijote Asteroid Deflection Mission)

Documentary - "The Universe: Stopping Armageddon"

Link: YouTube Video (The Universe: Stopping Armageddon part 1 of 4)

Documentary (German): "Das Ende der Welt"

Link: YouTube Video (Das Ende der Welt (Teil 1 von 5))

Documentary: "The Universe It Fell From Space"

Link: YouTube Video (1of5 The Universe It Fell From Space)

Quick Update on EADS Astrium Gravity Tractor

Another article on the EADS Astrium implementation of a Gravity Tractor. Selections from the article...

Dr Ralph Cordey, who is EADS Astrium's head of exploration and business, told BBC News that the concept of a gravity tug was actually first mooted by two Nasa astronauts, Edward Lu and Stanley Love, a few years ago.

He said: "Frankly, I thought it was crackers. I thought it would never work."

But he said after reconsidering the idea and focusing on specific engineering issues, including the size of the spacecraft, and long-term propulsion methods, it was considered by the team to be potentially feasible.

Dr Cordey said the company had worked with a number of space authorities on other methods of protecting the Earth from asteroids but this one would be able to target a wider range.

He said: "We have done quite a lot of design work on this with the European Space Agency and we believe this would work just as well on a big solid iron asteroid as well as other types."

But the high cost implications mean that before the device could be made, it would have to be commissioned by a government or a group of governments working together.

Link: BBC News Article interview

Link: BBC News Article

Asteroid Juno

This artist's concept of asteroid 3 June shows the "bite" taken out of the asteroid by an impact. (David A. Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Images of asteroid 3 Juno taken with the 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mt. Wilson Observatory show what appears to be a 60-mile-wide crater. The crater is visible as a darkened area in the lower left quadrant in the 833 nm and 934 nm images. The material excavated by the collision that produced the crater "bite" has low reflectance, especially at the wavelength of 934 nm. An adaptive optics system provided a remarkably clear view of Juno's surface by reducing interference from the Earth's atmosphere. (Sallie Baliunas et al.)

From the the NASA JPL News Release...

Juno, one of the first asteroids discovered, is thought to be the parent of many of the meteorites that rain on Earth. The asteroid is composed mostly of hardy silicate rock, which is tough enough that fragments broken off by collisions can often survive a trip through Earth's atmosphere.

Though pockmarked by bang-ups with other asteroids, Juno is large; in fact, it is the tenth largest asteroid. It measures about 234 kilometers (145 miles) in diameter, or about one-fifteenth the diameter of the moon.

The asteroid, which orbits the sun on a track between Mars and Jupiter, will be at its brightest on Sept. 21, when it is zooming around the sun at about 22 kilometers per second (49,000 miles per hour). At that time, its apparent magnitude will be 7.6, which is about two-and- a-half times brighter than normal. The extra brightness will come from its position in a direct line with the sun and its proximity to Earth. (The asteroid will still be about 180 million kilometers [112 million miles] away, so there is no danger it will fall towards Earth.)

Skywatchers with telescopes can probably see Juno from now until the end of the year, but it is most visible to binoculars in late September. On or before Sept. 21, look for Juno near midnight a few degrees east of the brighter glow of Uranus and in the constellation Pisces. It will look like a gray dot in the sky, and each night at the end of September, it will appear slightly more southwest of its location the night before. By Sept. 25, it will be closer to the constellation Aquarius and best seen before midnight.

Link: NASA JPL Article

Link: Wikipedia: 3_Juno

Winner of 2009 Move An Asteroid: Sini Merikallio (Finland) with paper entitled "Moving an Asteroid with Electric Solar Wind Sail"

Sini Merikallio of Finland wins the Move An Asteroid 2009 International Student and Young Professional International Technical Paper Competition with her paper, "Moving an Asteroid with Electric Solar Wind Sail”.

From the announcement:

SGAC is proud to announce the 2009 Move an Asteroid Competition winner - Sini Merikallio from Finland. Her paper "Moving an Asteroid with Electric Solar Wind Sail" can be found here. The goal of this competition was to develop innovative and credible planetary defense solutions by describing in technical detail how to move an asteroid or comet that is at least 140 meters in diameter. The prize for the competition will cover lodging and registration for both SGC'09 and IAC'09 as well as a flight to South Korea.

Sini Merikallio is working towards Ph.D. in the Modelling group at the Finnish Meteorological Institute's Department of Climate Change. She is currently modelling the atmospheric light scattering from mineral dust particles. Sini earned her M.Sc. (Tech) in electro- and material physics at the Helsinki University of Technology, Finland in 2003. Upon hearing she won the competition, Sini wrote, "I am thoroughly excited and grateful of this opportunity to represent the Electric Solar Wind Sail usage in both IAC and SGC. It will be very interesting to see the response of the scientific community on the method proposed and to discover other contestants innovative approaches on the given problem of asteroid threat mitigation. As the SGC and IAC bring together both hard-boiled scientists, students and young professionals, the ideas will no doubt fly free and I am looking forward on enlightening discussions and constructive feedback on which to build my research further. On a more personal note, I have for some time now desired to experience South Korea because of its culture that is surprisingly said to be quite similar to the culture here in Finland. During my visit I would also hope for a change to tour the Samsung Guide Dog School as my dearest hobbies include all kinds of volunteer work with guide dogs.'

Link: Move An Asteroid 2009 Winner News Announcement

Link: Merikallio, Sini, "Moving an Asteroid with Electric Solar Wind Sail,” 2009. (PDF)

Workshop on Asteroid 2008 TC3 (University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan, 05-15 December 2009)

From the workshop website:

The University of Khartoum, Faculty of Sciences and Physics Department, and the SETI Institute invite planetary astronomers and meteoriticists to participate in a workshop dedicated to asteroid 2008 TC3. Asteroid 2008 TC3 was the first asteroid to be detected in space and subsequently found to impact the Earth. Fragments were recovered in the Nubian Desert of northern Sudan in the form of rare ureilite meteorites, called "Almahata Sitta".

Goal of the workshop is to discuss the results from ongoing research into the properties of asteroid 2008 TC3 when it was still in space, its nature and origin, the asteroid's impact in Earth's atmosphere, the subsequent recovery, and the analysis of the recovered meteorites. Talks on the origin of ureilites are invited, as well as discussions on how to adjust observing strategies to increase the likelyhood of future discoveries of small asteroids on a collision course with Earth.

The workshop will be held on the days of December 6 and 7, 2009. In the week following, from December 8 to 15, there will be a site visit to the area where Almahata Sitta was recovered. An effort will be made to expand the diversity of recovered materials by finding more of the fallen debris.

Link: Workshop website

June 2009 UN COPUOS Report: Section on NEOs

The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) held its fifty-second
session in Vienna from 3 to 12 June 2009. Here is a section from the report related to Near Earth Object.

United Nations Report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space General Assembly, Official Records, Sixty-fourth Session, Supplement No. 20

Near-Earth objects

146. The Committee took note of the discussion of the Subcommittee under the agenda item on near-Earth objects, as reflected in the report of the Subcommittee (A/AC.105/933, paras. 136-148 and annex III).

147. The Committee endorsed the recommendations of the Subcommittee and its Working Group on Near-Earth Objects, which was convened under the chairmanship of Richard Crowther (United Kingdom) (A/AC.105/933, paras. 146 and 148 and annex III, paras. 8 and 9).

148. The Committee noted that the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects had convened on the margins of the fifty-second session of the Committee to further review and develop draft recommendations on the international response to the threat of Near-Earth object (NEO) impacts, for consideration by the Working Group of the Subcommittee at the forty-seventh session of the Subcommittee, in 2010.

149. The Committee noted that as part of its intersessional work, the Action Team was planning to hold a series of workshops dealing with policy, legal and operational aspects of the international response to the threat of NEO impacts. The workshops would be organized jointly with universities and space-related institutions, and their conclusions would be forwarded to the Action Team.

150. The view was expressed that the international response to the threat of NEO impacts required a multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach and decisionmaking process, involving technical, legal, humanitarian and institutional aspects. That delegation considered that the international community needed to address the technical and legal implications, and the related institutional implications, of the response to the threat of NEO impacts.

Link: UNOOSA Report (PDF)

Link: UNOOSA Reports Link

11 September 2009

Mixotrophs May Have Helped Sunlight- Dependent Organisms Survive K-T Impact Event

Selections from the article...

A dinosaur-killing asteroid may have wiped out much of life on Earth 65 million years ago, but now scientists have discovered how smaller organisms might have survived in the darkness following such a catastrophic impact.

Survival may have depended upon jack-of-all-trades organisms called mixotrophs that can consume organic matter in the absence of sunlight. That would have proved crucial during the long months of dust and debris blotting out the sun, when plenty of dead or dying organic matter filled the Earth's oceans and lakes.

"Mixotrophs are very good at stabilizing situations by using whatever resources are there, and can often provide what resources there aren't," said Harriet Jones, a biologist at the University of East Anglia in the UK. "They're very good at coping in extreme environments, and enabling other organisms to live."

Jones and her colleagues tested the limits of mixotrophs by subjecting them to six months of low light or complete darkness. The mixotrophs not only thrived, but also surprised researchers by helping sunlight-dependent organisms also survive pitch black conditions.

Life in the Dark: How Organisms Survived Asteroid Impacts
Jeremy Hsu
Astrobiology Magazine
10 September 2009

Link: article

Link: Wikipedia - Mixotroph

Video Interview with David French on Asteroid-Tether-Ballast System

Link: YouTube Video: David French Renaissance People

Link: Interview with David French

Link: NCState News Release

Article on Space Power Canada Meeting


Selections from the article:

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel. Solar power plants orbiting the planet, each the size of 700 Canadian football fields, beaming clean energy down to Earth 24 hours a day so we can run our factories, charge our gadgets and keep our home appliances humming.

But for the scientists and engineers attending the International Symposium on Solar Energy from Space, a three-day conference this week in Toronto, there's nothing fictional about it. In their view, building massive space-based solar power systems represents, over the long term, one of the most effective ways of tackling the double menace of global warming and peak oil.

Scientists say the advantage of putting a solar station in space is that it would face the sun 24 hours a day and would not be limited by cloud cover or air pollution. That would allow it to continuously generate power in the same manner as nuclear and fossil-fuel plants, but without the associated waste and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The idea has been around for 40 years, attracting serious attention from NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense during the 1970s, but funding eventually dried up. It wasn't until the late 1990s that interest in the concept resurfaced, partly as a result of concerns related to global warming and energy security.

Two years ago, the Pentagon's National Security Space Office issued a report that concluded solar-based power "is more technically executable than ever before."

Former NASA executive John Mankins, now president of the Space Power Association, said he believes space-based solar power could be economically competitive with other options.

Mankins added that he believes a small 10-megawatt demonstration plan could be in orbit within the next 10 years. "It's a reasonable time frame," he said.

At the conference, Nobuyuki Kaya, vice-dean of graduate engineering at Kobe University in Japan, demonstrated how the power could be transmitted wirelessly. Assisted by a team of students, he was able to light up a cluster of red LED lights and power a simple robot by beaming energy about 10 metres across a room.

Kieran Carroll, chief technology officer for Space Canada, which is hosting the conference, said such a system could be safely designed to accept and convert large amounts of energy from space. The trick is to transmit at low intensity by sending it down on a wide beam, about 10 kilometres across.

There would have to be no-fly zones around the area, but it wouldn't fry anyone walking through it.

"The power flux density in the middle of the (receiving) field would be perfectly safe for any life," said Carroll.

"In Canada, on a winter's day, one of the big problems would be that birds would probably hover over the field to get warm."

A reality check, however, came from power developer Wael Almazeedi, who warned of the legal, financial and regulatory challenges the plan would face, as well as the difficulty of "promoting a concept based on science fiction."

"Experts meet to discuss feasibility of harvesting solar power in space, beaming it back to Earth"
09 September 2009
Tyler Hamilton
Energy Reporter
The Toronto Star

Link: Article from The Star

08 September 2009

Article on NEOimpactor Code

Article on NEOimpactor Code developed by Nick Bailey of the University of Southampton's School of Engineering Sciences. Selections from the article:

The team used raw data from multiple impact simulations to rank each country based on the number of times and how severely they would be affected by each impact. The software, called NEOimpactor (from NASA's "NEO" or Near Earth Object program), has been specifically developed for measuring the impact of 'small' asteroids under one kilometer in diameter.

Early results indicate that in terms of population lost, China, Indonesia, India, Japan and the United States face the greatest overall threat; while the United States, China, Sweden, Canada and Japan face the most severe economic effects due to the infrastructure destroyed.

The top ten countries most at risk are China, Indonesia, India, Japan, the United States, the Philippines, Italy, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Nigeria.

Link: Daily Galaxy Article

U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee: Summary Report Talks About Human NEO Missions Through "Flexible Path" Architecture

The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee has released its summary report. The Committee has been looking at what early human exploration options may be available to the U.S. They previously had talked about an exploration path that would allow the flexibility to go to NEOs. This architecture, referred to as the Flexible Path, is one of the options talked about in their summary report. Here are some selections from the summary report related to the "Flexible Path" architecture:

There is a third possible path for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, which the Committee calls the Flexible Path. On this path, humans would visit sites never visited before and extend our knowledge of how to operate in space—while traveling greater and greater distances from Earth. Successive missions would visit: lunar orbit; the Lagrange points (special points in space that are important sites for scientific observations and the future space transportation infrastructure); near-Earth objects (asteroids that cross the Earth’s path); and orbit around Mars. Most interestingly, humans could rendezvous with a moon of Mars, then coordinate with or control robots on the Martian surface.

The Flexible Path represents a different type of exploration strategy. We would learn how to live and work in space, to visit small bodies, and to work with robotic probes on the planetary surface. It would provide the public and other stakeholders with a series of interesting “firsts” to keep them engaged and supportive. Most important, because the path is flexible, it would allow many different options as exploration progresses, including a return to the Moon’s surface, or a continuation to the surface of Mars.

The Committee finds that both Moon First and Flexible Path are viable exploration strategies. It also finds that they are not necessarily mutually exclusive; before traveling to Mars, we might be well served to both extend our presence in free space and gain experience working on the lunar surface.

All variants of Option 5 begin exploration along the flexible path in the early 2020s, with lunar fly-bys, visits to Lagrange points and near-Earth objects and Mars fly-bys occurring at a rate of about one major event per year, and possible rendezvous with Mars’s moons or human lunar return by the mid to late 2020s.

Link: Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee Summary Report (PDF)

Link: Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee

Notes from International Symposium on Solar Energy from Space (Day 1, 08 September 2009)

This does not have any specific correlation to planetary defense, but a place to have notes from a conference I am attending. These are notes from the International Symposium on Solar Energy from Space. These are quick notes on things of interest (not meant to be complete). All errors are my own.

After the morning session, there was wireless power transmission demonstration from Prof. Kaya at Kobe University (along with this students).

(Day 1, 08 September 2009)

- Dr. Bryan Erb, “World Energy Outlook and the Prospects for Sustainable Sources”
Multiple energy projections
Global Energy Institute – global power grids
Geothermal or ocean energy
Nuclear fusion
Power grids smarter
Unless a price of carbon of around $30/ton per CO2 tax then carbon sequestration approach will not take off.

- Wael Almazeedi, “Conquering Terrestrial Challenges to Realize Extraterrestrial Potential”
(E&Y Ent. Of the Year)
Free Access to Energy Consortium (FATE)
BTU Power (Manager): 11 GW of installed power worldwide (Kuwait)
Insufficient funding, new to adopt a new proactive approach
$33.5B for terrestrial in on eyear versus %50M in space solar power
SSP is still a concept
There have been positive developments recently but if we do not follow up with demonstration soon
Take the concept out of the lab into the business world
Electric Power Research Institute Journal, Summer 2007 (Development Phases)
Adapt to a terrestrial world even though unjust
1.Public perception
Not as space enthusiast, viable and attainable project
2.Clarity of purposes
Is our purpose to erect a white elephant
3.Competitive positioning
Need to reduce cost comparable to other forms without reliance on market distortion incentive (need to compete without subsidies)
Solar thermal and PV are competing, cannot compete without tariffs/credits
QGen – integrated solar thermal to conventional fuel plants
Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (hybrid plants)
Adopting a similar approach for SSP
(competition: Andasol Complex)
Main competition: Terrestrial solar thermal with storage
Look for government help
4. IP
5. Project Financing
Banks will be responsible to financing, risk averse, limited recourse basis – party given risk who can afford it, guartenned to hardware
70% debt, 30% equity, Work within project finance markets
Markets do not have capital for SSP project, capacity is not there,
Taiwan high speed rail at 18B, largest energy, $13B Qatar ebergy
TAPCP (in UAE for 3.1B) with 24 banks ($911 M – all banks, 1.2 B JBIC Japan bank equity)
Where is the money going to come from, not from government, other financing funding not available, capital intensity, cannot rely on electric utilizies (less than 2% on R&D)
Hybrid Power Demonstration Plan in Tunisia (near Tatoine), Zarzis Tunisia, concentrating solar cycle with combined cycle gas turbine plant) – far from it to get banks involved, extensive dialog with banks
6. Markets
Selling electricity to least developed, integrated technology with grids which as suffering from grids, cannot rely on electric utilities to fix the grid, worldwide government support for gird upgrades,
$13.6 Trillion power investment requirement, (
Space falls outside patent jurisdiction, pushing outer pace treaty and patent law, WIPO on compulsory licensing for green technologies, countries will have right to infringe for public good
Space-based value chain, need to articulate self-financing framework for demonstrator, dual purpose
Evolutionary approach, two paths (Concentrating solar power + steam engine path) (15/85 split for solar + fossil fuel, to 40/60 split steam cycle)

- John Mankins: “Vision and Challenge of Solar Power Satellites”Never an international assessment for SSP
Frame a reasonable technical roadmap
Technical challenges: end-to-end efficiency, total mass, cost to deploy operate (LCC)
Efficiency: 40 going to 50%,
Average cost (aerospace): 3.5E6 $/kg, 7.5xE5, 5E5 / 2) – three points
Integrated symmetrical/modular SPS
Retrodirective Phases Array (adaptive optics) – pilot signal to instruct phases
2008 WPT test in 2008, Managed Energy Technologies was prime (first test of solar power with phases array, validated send energy across 148 km, in less than 4months in less than $1M

- Dan Fortin
President of IBM Canada
Talking about the smarter planet (mentions Friedman’s book, flattening of the earth),
Traceability of food
Stockholm example, traffic cost based upon what/were use of car including traffic pattern (reduced traffic by 20%, greenhouse emissions down 14%)
Health care: Toronto to help doctors detect subtle changes in medical conditions for premature babies
Smart Power grid: some nations further ahead (Malta building the world’s smart utility grid), manage entire public infrastructure as one,
Using biological technology to develop semi-conductor chips.
Becoming smarter requires people including leadership
On talking about outsourcing, typically people think it is labor arbitrage, as a world there is tremendous development of talent, U.S. versus India/China engineering graduating rates,
Advice on how to do global scale projects: barriers to work through (political, technical), sooner to draw global centers of excellence to subjects – that would break barriers, work in 135 countries, had 135 fiefdoms, created strong global centers of excellence, largest software research lab is in Canada, 5000 researchers, 2500 working in pods of 40-50 researchers across the world, get on top of that

- Dr. Robert Zee, Space Flight Laboratory, University of Toronto

Link: International Symposium on Solar Energy from Space
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