Sunday, July 31, 2011

War against the Comet Empire Continues

That little white dot in the center is 2010 TK7.

It's been a week of good news down here in the SpaceRubble Bunker. Although Earth continues to be lightly bombarded by occasional meteorites, several advancements were recently made in identifying objects in the Solar System that give us greater understanding of how the asteroid belt exists and some more insight into potentially dangerous asteroids.

Firstly, though not as spectacular as some of the other news, astronomers discovered that asteroids 2010 TK7 is a Trojan Asteroid. This designation signifies that the rock, about 300 meters in diameter, maintains its position basically in the same orbit as our planet. This particular rock seems to maintain a stability pattern that occasionally brings it to within 24 million kilometers of our planet. It is currently at about 80 million kilometers distance, which indicates a complex trajectory. The stability comes from the named "Trojan Points" which are LaGrange gravity points L4 and L5. These asteroids have been suspected to exist, but so far 2010 Tk7 is the first to actually be detected.

Comet 103P/Hartley 2 picture and orbit.

Meanwhile, a little spacecraft named SOHO (SOlar and Heliospheric Observer) made great progress in measuring the amount of water and dust chunking off of comet 103P/Hartley 2. These studies will help astronomers understand better how a comet loses mass, as well as how a comet is composed and how it operates as it passes the warm regions of the inner solar system.

Vesta up close.

Also making BIG news this week was asteroid Vesta. NASA's space probe Dawn entered a temporary orbit around this giant space rock. Vesta and asteroid Ceres are the two largest member of the asteroids inhabiting the "belt" between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will visit both asteroids, giving us unprecedented views and information about these bodies. Vesta is known as the brightest asteroid, visible from Earth, and is about 529 kilometers in diameter (roughly).

Important News!
This week marks the time of brightest appearance of asteroid Vesta. It's peak is expected about the 5th of August. Thanks to diagrams in Astronomy magazine, it will be very possible to view Vesta. Therefore, SpaceRubble Command will undertake an Observation Quest this weekend and attempt to spot Vesta with binoculars. This event will be covered (successfully or not!) in the blogs here at SpaceRubble. Look for coverage on or around the 6th of next week.

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