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Indian Origin Scientist Part of Team that developed Asteroid flyby to help NASA test Global Tracking Network

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NASA's 2020 Mars rover to have 23 'eyes'. Pixabay
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  • An asteroid flyby will help NASA with its global tracking network
  • NASA scientists to use large telescopes to keep a check on the asteroid’s precise trajectory
  • According to Indian-origin scientist, Vishnu Reddy, the new collaborative observation will help utilize the network’s global aspect

New York, July 30, 2017: A small asteroid that is expected to fly close to the Earth in October will help NASA to test its network of observatories, a group of NASA researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist, has said.

The flyby would also benefit scientists who work with planetary defence.

According to a press statement on NASA’s website earlier this week, the target of all this attention is asteroid 2012 TC4 — a small asteroid estimated to be between 10 and 30 metres in size.

Asteroid TC4 will safely fly past the Earth on October 12, and scientists are certain it will come no closer than 6,800 km from the surface of the Earth.

The asteroid has been out of range of telescopes since 2012 when it sped past the Earth at about one-fourth the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

For Indian-origin scientist Vishnu Reddy, this is an opportunity for the collaborative observation campaign to utilize the international aspect of the network.

“This is a team effort that involves more than a dozen observatories, universities, and labs across the globe so we can collectively learn the strengths and limitations of our near-Earth object observation capabilities,” said Reddy, Professor at the University of Arizona.

Scientists believe that asteroid 2012 TC4 may be slightly larger than the space rock that hit the Earth’s atmosphere near Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013.

NASA will use large telescopes to detect and re-establish the asteroid’s precise trajectory. The new observations are expected to help refine knowledge about its orbit, narrowing the uncertainty about how far it will be from the Earth at its closest approach in October.

“Scientists have always appreciated knowing when an asteroid will make a close approach to and safely pass the Earth because they can make preparations to collect data to characterize and learn as much as possible about it,” said Michael Kelley, Programme Scientist and NASA Headquarters lead for the TC4 observation campaign.

“This time, we are adding in another layer of effort, using this asteroid flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid threat,” Kelley added.

Scientists from NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, have determined that while at closest approach, asteroid 2012 TC4 will pass no closer than 6,800 km from the Earth — it will more likely pass much farther away, as far as 270,000 km, or two-thirds of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. (IANS)

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NASA’s InSight Captures The Sound Of The Martian Wind

InSight landed on Mars on Nov. 26.

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InSight, Mars, NASA, Martian Wind
This Friday, Dec. 7, 2018 photo made available by NASA shows a view from the arm-mounted camera on the InSight Mars lander. The spacecraft arrived on the planet on Nov. 26. VOA

NASA’s new Mars lander has captured the first sounds of the “really unworldly” Martian wind.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory released audio clips of the alien wind Friday. The low-frequency rumblings were collected by the InSight lander during its first week of operations at Mars.

The wind is estimated to be blowing 10 mph to 15 mph (16 kph to 24 kph). These are the first sounds from Mars that are detectable by human ears, according to the researchers.

“Reminds me of sitting outside on a windy summer afternoon … In some sense, this is what it would sound like if you were sitting on the InSight lander on Mars,” Cornell University’s Don Banfield told reporters.

NASA, Insight, Martian Wind
NASA’s InSight spacecraft, destined for the Elysium Planitia region in Mars’ northern hemisphere, undergoes launch preparations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. VOA

Scientists involved in the project agree the martian wind has an otherworldly quality to it.

Thomas Pike of Imperial College London said the rumbling is “rather different to anything that we’ve experienced on Earth, and I think it just gives us another way of thinking about how far away we are getting these signals.”

The noise is of the wind blowing against InSight’s solar panels and the resulting vibration of the entire spacecraft. The sounds were recorded by an air pressure sensor inside the lander that’s part of a weather station, as well as the seismometer on the deck of the spacecraft.

The low frequencies are a result of Mars’ thin air density and even more so the seismometer itself — it’s meant to detect underground seismic waves, well below the threshold of human hearing. The seismometer will be moved to the Martian surface in the coming weeks; until then, the team plans to record more wind noise.

NASA, Insight, Martian Wind
This is an illustration showing a simulated view of NASA’s InSight lander about to land on the surface of Mars. This view shows the underside of the spacecraft. VOA

The 1976 Viking landers on Mars picked up spacecraft shaking caused by wind, but it would be a stretch to consider it sound, said InSight’s lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt, of JPL in Pasadena, California.

Also Read: NASA’s InSight Lands Safely On Mars

The “really unworldly” sounds from InSight, meanwhile, have Banerdt imaging he’s “on a planet that’s in some ways like the Earth, but in some ways really alien.”

InSight landed on Mars on Nov. 26.

“We’re all still on a high from the landing last week … and here we are less than two weeks after landing, and we’ve already got some amazing new science,” said NASA’s Lori Glaze, acting director of planetary science. “It’s cool, it’s fun.” (VOA)