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Mini-radar for asteroid CubeSat

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    • By NASA
      The day before asteroid 2008 OS7 made its close approach with Earth on Feb. 2, this series of images was captured by the powerful 230-foot (70-meter) Goldstone Solar System Radar antenna near Barstow, California.NASA/JPL-Caltech During the close approach of 2008 OS7 with Earth on Feb. 2, the agency’s Deep Space Network planetary radar gathered the first detailed images of the stadium-size asteroid.
      On Feb. 2, a large asteroid safely drifted past Earth at a distance of about 1.8 million miles (2.9 million kilometers, or 7 ½ times the distance between Earth and the Moon). There was no risk of the asteroid – called 2008 OS7 – impacting our planet, but scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California used a powerful radio antenna to better determine the size, rotation, shape, and surface details of this near-Earth object (NEO). Until this close approach, asteroid 2008 OS7 had been too far from Earth for planetary radar systems to image it.
      The asteroid was discovered on July 30, 2008, during routine search operations for NEOs by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, which is headquartered at the University of Arizona in Tucson. After discovery, observations of the amount of light reflected from the asteroid’s surface revealed that it was roughly between 650 to 1,640 feet (200 and 500 meters) wide and that it is comparatively slow rotating, completing one rotation every 29 ½ hours.
      The rotational period of 2008 OS7 was determined by Petr Pravec, at the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Ondřejov, Czech Republic, who observed the asteroid’s light curve – or how the brightness of the object changes over time. As the asteroid spins, variations in its shape change the brightness of reflected light astronomers see, and those changes are recorded to understand the period of the asteroid’s rotation.
      During the Feb. 2 close approach, JPL’s radar group used the powerful 230-foot (70-meter) Goldstone Solar System Radar antenna dish at the Deep Space Network’s facility near Barstow, California, to image the asteroid. What scientists found was that its surface has a mix of rounded and more angular regions with a small concavity. They also found the asteroid is smaller than previously estimated – about 500 to 650 feet (150 to 200 meters) wide – and confirmed its uncommonly slow rotation.
      The Goldstone radar observations also provided key measurements of the asteroid’s distance from Earth as it passed by. Those measurements can help scientists at NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) refine calculations of the asteroid’s orbital path around the Sun. Asteroid 2008 OS7 orbits the Sun once every 2.6 years, traveling from within the orbit of Venus and past the orbit of Mars at its farthest point.
      CNEOS, which is managed by JPL, calculates every known NEO orbit to provide assessments of potential impact hazards. Due to the proximity of its orbit to that of the Earth and its size, 2008 OS7 is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid, but the Feb. 2 close approach is the nearest it will come to our planet for at least 200 years.
      While NASA reports on NEOs of all sizes, the agency has been tasked by Congress with detecting and tracking objects 460 feet (140 meters) in size and larger that could cause significant damage on the ground if they should impact our planet.
      The Goldstone Solar System Radar Group and CNEOS are supported by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program within the Planetary Defense Coordination Office at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. The Deep Space Network receives programmatic oversight from Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program office within the Space Operations Mission Directorate, also at the agency’s headquarters.
      More information about planetary radar, CNEOS, and near-Earth objects can be found at:
      News Media Contacts
      Ian J. O’Neill
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
      Karen Fox / Charles Blue
      NASA Headquarters
      karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / charles.e.blue@nasa.gov
      Last Updated Feb 26, 2024 Related Terms
      Asteroids Deep Space Network Jet Propulsion Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) Planetary Defense Planetary Defense Coordination Office Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) Space Communications & Navigation Program Explore More
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    • By European Space Agency
      ESA’s Hera spacecraft for planetary defence is being prepared for a journey to the distant asteroid moon Dimorphos orbiting around its parent body Didymos. One of the first features Hera will look for is the crater left on Dimorphos by its predecessor mission DART, which impacted the asteroid to deflect its orbit. Yet a new impact simulation study reported in Nature Astronomy today suggests no crater will be found. The DART impact is likely to have remodelled the entire body instead – a significant finding for both asteroid science and planetary defence.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      5 min read
      NASA Celebrates First Decade of International Asteroid Warning Network 
      On January 13-14, 2014, representatives from NASA and various global research organizations convened the first meeting of the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) steering committee. This group was charged with strengthening coordinated international response to a potentially hazardous near-Earth object (NEO). One decade, 17 meetings, and five global exercises later, IAWN continues to build collaboration among the global planetary defense community to help identify potential threats and safeguard Earth.
      Kelly Fast, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program Manager and Coordinating Officer for the International Asteroid Warning Network speaks to the importance of international collaboration. Credit: NASA/Lindley Johnson A Reason for Action
      In the early morning of Feb. 15, 2013, in the frosty skies above the southern Ural region in Russia, a previously undetected asteroid approximately 60 feet (18 meters) in size slammed into Earth’s atmosphere. This relatively small piece of natural space debris lit up the morning sky as it disintegrated, briefly shining brighter than the Sun as it exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk with a force equivalent to about 440 kilotons of TNT – over 20 times greater than the energy released by the first atomic bomb blast in New Mexico. 
      This spectacular and widely publicized event highlighted the very real but easily overlooked hazard posed by near-Earth objects (NEOs) – asteroids and comets with orbits that bring them into Earth’s vicinity – and reinforced the need for strong global coordination among the planetary-defense community.
      Representatives Forge Global Collaboration
      Coincidentally and fortuitously, it also occurred while the 50th session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) Scientific and Technical Subcommittee was convened at the International Center in Vienna. 
      The meteor metaphorically impacted the committee, which had already established a working group on NEOs to draft initial plans for an international response to potentially hazardous NEOs and was preparing to present its recommendations to the subcommittee. These plans, which were subsequently accepted by the UN General Assembly, called for the establishment of IAWN. In that document, IAWN was tasked with “developing a strategy using well-defined space-object detection and tracking procedures, and communication plans and protocols, to assist governments in the understanding and analysis of asteroid impact consequences for the planning of mitigation responses.”
      “Chelyabinsk was the ultimate call for action during the COPUOS meeting in Vienna and it was clearly on the minds of those of us who attended the first meeting of the International Asteroid Warning Network eleven months later,” said NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson. 
      “Prior to this meeting, there already existed a vibrant but very informal international collaboration with NEO research,” said Kelly Fast, the Near-Earth Object Observations program manager for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. “IAWN was the first formal effort to collaborate on an international scale for NEO observation, tracking and modeling relevant to planetary defense.” 
      But what did the inaugural IAWN create that we didn’t have before? In a nutshell, IAWN forged a formal worldwide collaboration of asteroid observers and modelers to detect, track, and physically characterize NEOs. This vital information about impact threats is also made accessible by any nation and government on Earth through IAWN notifications to the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, and through the world-wide individuals and participating organizations in IAWN and their open data practices.
      “In short, IAWN has been able to foster and advance the international collaboration that is critical to ensure the planetary defense community is communicating and operating using the same best practices and methods for finding, tracking, cataloging, and characterizing NEOs, and then informing the world about them,” said Johnson. 
      Since its inception, IAWN has led several campaigns to help check the accuracy of the observations reported by asteroid observers. It also organized practice observing campaigns of a known non-hazardous NEO to simulate what would be needed in the event an object were on a collision course with Earth.
      NASA’s Role in Worldwide Network
      NASA’s involvement was essential to the formation of IAWN, and its current role involves coordinating IAWN, which includes convening the semi-annual meetings of the steering committee and signatories as well as leading the periodic campaigns to exercise the astronomical and modeling capabilities of the worldwide network. IAWN currently has 55 signatories from 25 countries, representing participation by space agencies, universities, private organizations, and independent astronomers.
      The Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) was also recommended by the UN and established with IAWN. SMPAG is the forum for the world’s space agencies to collaborate on technologies for mitigation techniques and recommend potential in-space deflection options based on information from IAWN concerning an identified impact threat. SMPAG is chaired by the European Space Agency.
      “It is safe to say that IAWN and SMPAG would not exist or have been endorsed by the UN if NASA had not actively worked for their establishment and support by the UN COPUOS member states,” concludes Johnson. “This is also why NASA stepped up to initiate the coordination of IAWN activities.”
      For more information about NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office:
      News Media Contact
      Charles Blue
      NASA Headquarters, Washington
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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      This map shows the location where the small asteroid 2024 BX1 harmlessly impacted Earth’s atmosphere over Germany, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) west of Berlin, on Jan. 21. A NASA system called Scout predicted the impact time and site within 1 second and about 330 feet (100 meters).NASA/JPL-Caltech The Scout impact assessment system calculated where and when the asteroid 2024 BX1 would impact Earth’s atmosphere, providing a useful demonstration of planetary defense capability.
      A small asteroid about 3 feet (1 meter) in size disintegrated harmlessly over Germany on Sunday, Jan. 21, at 1:32 a.m. local time (CET). At 95 minutes before it impacted Earth’s atmosphere, NASA’s Scout impact hazard assessment system, which monitors data on potential asteroid discoveries, gave advance warning as to where and when the asteroid would impact. This is the eighth time in history that a small Earth-bound asteroid has been detected while still in space, before entering and disintegrating in our atmosphere.
      The asteroid’s impact produced a bright fireball, or bolide, which was seen from as far away as the Czech Republic and may have scattered small meteorites on the ground at the impact site about 37 miles (60 kilometers) west of Berlin. The asteroid was later designated 2024 BX1.
      Explore the 3D of asteroids, comets, and near-Earth objects While NASA reports on near-Earth objects (NEOs) of all sizes, the agency has been tasked by Congress with detecting and tracking NEOs 140 meters in size and larger that could cause significant damage on the ground if they should impact our planet. Those objects can be spotted much further in advance than small ones like 2024 BX1.
      Tiny asteroids like this one impact our planet from time to time. They pose no hazard to life on Earth but can provide a useful demonstration of NASA’s planetary defense capabilities such as Scout’s rapid-response trajectory computation and impact alerts.
      How It Was Predicted
      The asteroid 2024 BX1 was first observed less than three hours before its impact by Krisztián Sárneczky at Piszkéstető Mountain Station of the Konkoly Observatory near Budapest, Hungary. These early observations were reported to the Minor Planet Center – the internationally recognized clearinghouse for the position measurements of small solar system bodies – and automatically posted on the center’s Near-Earth Object Confirmation Page so that other astronomers could make additional observations.
      Scout, which was developed and is operated by the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, automatically fetched the new data from that page, deducing the object’s possible trajectory and chances of impacting Earth. CNEOS calculates the orbit of every known NEO to provide assessments of potential impact hazards for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
      With three observations posted to the confirmation page over 27 minutes, Scout initially identified that an impact was possible and that additional observations were urgently needed. As astronomers across Europe reported new data to the Minor Planet Center, the asteroid’s trajectory became better known and the probability of its impacting Earth significantly increased.
      Seventy minutes after 2024 BX1 was first spotted, Scout reported a 100% probability of Earth impact and began to narrow down the location and time. As tracking continued and more data became available over the next hour, Scout improved estimates of the time and location. Since the asteroid disintegrated over a relatively populated part of the world, many photos and videos of the fireball were posted online minutes after the event.
      Tracking NEOs
      The first asteroid to be discovered and tracked well before impacting our planet was 2008 TC3, which entered our atmosphere and broke up over Sudan in October 2008. That 13-foot-wide (4-meter-wide) asteroid scattered hundreds of small meteorites over the Nubian Desert.
      In early 2023, another tiny asteroid, designated 2023 CX1, was detected seven hours before it entered Earth’s atmosphere over northwestern France. As with 2024 BX1, Scout accurately predicted the location and time of impact.
      With NEO surveys becoming more sophisticated and sensitive, more of these harmless objects are being detected before entering our atmosphere, providing real exercises for NASA’s planetary defense program. The detals gathered from such events are helping to inform the agency’s mitigation strategies should a large and hazardous object on a collision course with our planet be detected in the future.
      More information about asteroids, near-Earth objects, and planetary defense at NASA can be found at:
      News Media Contacts
      Ian J. O’Neill
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
      Karen Fox / Charles Blue
      NASA Headquarters
      karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / charles.e.blue@nasa.gov
      Last Updated Jan 24, 2024 Related Terms
      Asteroids Meteors & Meteorites Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) Planetary Defense Coordination Office Explore More
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