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Big Asteroid Is Heading Close to Earth

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April 11, 2017: A relatively large asteroid will cross Earth’s orbit around the sun this month. Astrophysicists and astronomers say there is no chance of a collision, but it will be the closest flyby of an asteroid that large for at least another 10 years.

Asteroid 2014 JO25, discovered three years ago, is about 650 meters (2,100 feet) in diameter, 60 times as large as the small asteroid that plunged into our atmosphere as a meteor and exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013. That blast was felt thousands of kilometers away and caused havoc on the ground, damaging more than 7,000 homes and offices and injuring 1,500 people.

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Asteroid 2014 JO25’s pass by Earth on April 19 will be a near miss, cosmically speaking. The U.S. space agency NASA said no one should worry: “There is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, [but] this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.”

The Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union classifies 2014 JO25 as a “potentially hazardous asteroid.” (Astronomers classify asteroids as “minor planets”; when they pass close to Earth they are termed “near-Earth objects.”)

An animation of the intersection of Earth’s orbit and that of 2014 JO25, prepared by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a unit of the California Institute of Technology, makes it look like an awfully close call, but the hard facts are more reassuring: At its closest point, the asteroid will be about five times as far from Earth as the moon is, more than 1.75 million kilometers away (1,087,400 miles).

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Although the asteroid is expected to be twice as reflective as our moon, it will be difficult to spot in a night sky filled with stars, and certainly not without help. Scientists say the sort of telescope amateur astronomers use should be adequate to pick out the space rock as it whizzes across the sky at 120,000 kilometers per hour (74,500 mph).

EarthSky.org, a website that follows developments in the cosmos and throughout nature in general, has posted an article with detailed information to help sky-watchers find the asteroid on April 19, and for a day or two afterward.

Professional astronomers also will be tracking 2014 JO25 closely. Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, an extremely powerful radio telescope center, will study the asteroid for five days.

After all, it’s not often that something as big as this comes along, even a couple of million kilometers from home. NASA says 2014 JO25 hasn’t been this close to Earth in the past 400 years, and it will be at least 500 years before it comes back for a repeat close encounter with our planet.

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Asteroids actually pass close to Earth fairly often, but it’s their size that matters. Asteroid 2017 GM made one of the closest passes by Earth ever seen — 16,000 kilometers (9,900 miles) above sea level — less than a week ago, on April 4. Little notice was taken, however, because that chunk of space rock was about the size of a small car. VOA

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SpaceX launches Falcon 9 with first broadband internet satellites

According to the mission description, equipped with an advanced radar instrument, PAZ will cover the entire globe in 24 hours, serving both commercial and government needs

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The Falcon 9's first stage separates from the second stage moments after about two minutes from liftoff.
The Falcon 9's first stage separates from the second stage moments after about two minutes from liftoff. Wikimedia Commons
  • A used Falcon 9 rocket blasted off on Thursday from Space Launch Complex 4E
  • The launch’s primary mission is to deliver PAZ, a radar-imaging satellite, into orbit for the Spain-based company Hisdesat
  • The company has been relatively mum about the debut of its Starlink satellites, and about the entire programme itself

SpaceX has completed another launch of its Falcon 9 rocket with first two prototype satellites of its global broadband internet-in-space project, Starlink, successfully deployed in orbit.

A used Falcon 9 rocket blasted off on Thursday from Space Launch Complex 4E at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after about two minutes from liftoff.

The launch’s primary mission is to deliver PAZ, a radar-imaging satellite, into orbit for the Spain-based company Hisdesat.

“Successful deployment of PAZ satellite to low-Earth orbit confirmed,” the California-based company confirmed.

“First two Starlink demo satellites, called Tintin A & B, deployed and communicating to Earth stations,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the mission description, equipped with an advanced radar instrument, PAZ will cover the entire globe in 24 hours, serving both commercial and government needs. Designed for a mission life of five and a half years, PAZ will orbit Earth 15 times per day, covering an area of over 300,000 sq. km from an altitude of 514 km and a velocity of seven km per second.

However, Paz was not riding alone on the recycled Falcon 9. Quietly on board were SpaceX’s two experimental broadband satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, a big first step in SpaceX’s long-term plan to create satellite internet over the next decade.

The company has been relatively mum about the debut of its Starlink satellites, and about the entire programme itself.

Also Read: Elon Musk Unveils Plans to put Humans on Mars by 2024

“The Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband. If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served,” Musk said on Wednesday.

According to the open files between SpaceX and the U.

S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in the coming years, the private U. S. space firm hopes to create a giant constellation of about 12,000 of interlinked broadband-internet satellites that will orbit in a synchronized dance above the Earth, delivering broadband access anywhere in the world.

A used Falcon 9 rocket blasted off on Thursday from Space Launch Complex 4E at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.
A used Falcon 9 rocket blasted off on Thursday from Space Launch Complex 4E at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Wikimedia Commons

Some 4,425 satellites will sit at low earth orbit (LEO), an estimate of 1,150 to 1,325 km above the Earth, while another 7,518 satellites will be launched into very-low-earth orbits (VLEO), some 335 to 346 km above the Earth.

According to a tally by the Union of Concerned Scientists, there are 1,738 satellites currently orbiting the Earth.

Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gave his endorsement to SpaceX’s application to operate two huge constellations of broadband satellites.

Falcon 9’s first stage for the mission previously supported the FORMOSAT-5 mission from SLC-4E in August 2017. SpaceX didn’t attempt to recover Falcon 9’s first stage after Thursday’s launch because it “was an older version booster.”

Also Read: NASA’s Kepler Discovers Nearly 100 New Exoplanets

However, there is another heightened interest in this launch.

By using “Mr. Steven,” a large navigable platform ship with extended “arms” and a net strung between them, SpaceX was trying to “catch” at least one of the two payload fairings that enclose the satellite at the top of the rocket.

These fairings were separated from the rocket at about three minutes after launch.

The value of these fairings is about $6 million, and recovering and reusing them would save money for SpaceX. Currently, a typical Falcon 9 launch costs around $62 million. (IANS)