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Asteroids and Comets

All the Little Things in the Solar System, and the Things They Can Do to Earth

Is there an asteroid or comet out there that poses a risk to life on Earth? The answer is certainly "yes," but we don't yet know where the next major impactor will come from or when it will crash. The best way to reduce this uncertainty is to search the skies for these crumbs of the solar system. The Planetary Society has a long history of supporting amateur and underfunded professional astronomers in their efforts to discover and track potentially hazardous near-Earth objects. This is useful not only for planetary defense, but also for learning about the solar system's origin and evolution.

A fortuitous byproduct of our increasing ability to detect fainter objects is that, for the first time, we now stand a chance of discovering smaller, five- to ten-meter-sized rocks while they are still in space before they burn up in our atmosphere and scatter meteorites along the ground. We are now beginning to link meteorites that we can study in our labs with the data on orbits and compositions that we amass with astronomical observations. Every meteorite, every tiny asteroid has a story, and we can combine these stories together to answer fundamental questions about how the solar system formed and evolved. What were the ingredients that made Earth and the other planets? How are those constituents different now? How have asteroid and comet impacts shaped the origin and evolution of life on Earth (and, potentially, on other planets)? Can asteroids serve as stepping-stones for human travel to farther destinations?

Blogs About Asteroids, Comets, and the Impact Threat

Shining Up A Telescope

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/03/21 11:50 CDT

A 0.81m telescope in northern Italy is well on its way to being wide eyed and shiny thanks to a 2013 Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO Grant, which will enable it to make better near Earth object observations to help protect our planet from asteroid impact.

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Intro Astronomy Class 6: Mars (continued) and Asteroids

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/03/14 06:10 CDT

Continue exploring Mars and learn about asteroids in this video of class 6 of Bruce Betts' Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class.

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Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: How to determine the orbit of a comet?

Posted by ESA Mars Express Team on 2014/03/12 02:02 CDT | 2 comments

In the quest to track Comet Siding Spring, the Mars Express team tells us how computing the orbit of a comet isn't as straightforward as science fiction would have us believe.

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Asteroids, Comets, and the Threat

Asteroids and Comets Visited by Spacecraft

A comparison of all the asteroids and comets ever visited by spacecraft, up to date as of November 10 (when Deep Impact flew past Hartley 2). Vesta is not included.

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Sizing Up the Threat from Near-Earth Objects (NEOs)

Scientifically, it is useful to divide the impact hazard into two types of events: those with local consequences and those with global consequences. Global events, while much less likely, actually pose a greater risk.

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The Torino Scale

The Torino scale is a color-coded advisory system that enables near-Earth object (NEO) researchers to place objects within a potential threat range from zero -- where there is virtually no chance of collision, to 10 -- where global catastrophe is certain.

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Travel to Bennu on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft!

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