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

NASA's 2020 Mars rover to have 23 'eyes'. Pixabay
  • 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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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot grows taller: NASA

Jupiter's Great Red Spot, which has been shrinking for a century and a half, seems to be growing taller as it gets smaller

NASA to release two missions focused on moon soon in 2022. Pixabay
NASA's reveals the change in size of Jupiter's red spot. Pixabay

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which has been shrinking for a century and a half, seems to be growing taller as it gets smaller, NASA scientists have found.

The Great Red Spot is a persistent high-pressure region in the atmosphere of Jupiter, producing an anti-cyclonic storm 22 degree south of the planet’s equator.

Space playlist for Halloween
Jupiter’s red spot is becoming longer. Pixabay.

The findings, published in the Astronomical Journal, indicate that the Great Red Spot recently started to drift westward faster than before. Historically, it’s been assumed that this drift is more or less constant.

The study confirms that the storm has been decreasing in length overall since 1878 and is big enough to accommodate just over one Earth at this point. But the historical record indicates the area of the spot grew temporarily in the 1920s.

“Storms are dynamic, and that’s what we see with the Great Red Spot. It’s constantly changing in size and shape, and its winds shift, as well,” said Amy Simon, an expert in planetary atmospheres at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland.

Also Read: NASA Reveals Plans For Future Missions To Moon

“There is evidence in the archived observations that the Great Red Spot has grown and shrunk over time,” added Reta Beebe, Professor at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. “However, the storm is quite small now, and it’s been a long time since it last grew,” Beebe said.

Because the storm has been contracting, the researchers expected to find the already-powerful internal winds becoming even stronger. However, instead of spinning faster, the storm appears to be forced to stretch up. The change in height is small relative to the area that the storm covers, but it’s still noticeable.

Further, the Great Red Spot’s colour is also deepening, becoming intensely orange since 2014, the researchers observed. While the researchers are not sure why that’s happening, it’s possible that the chemicals which colour the storm are being carried higher into the atmosphere as the spot stretches up.

Jupiter’s red spot is decreasing in width. NASA

At higher altitudes, the chemicals would be subjected to more UltraViolet radiation and would take on a deeper colour. Once big enough to swallow three Earths with room to spare, the mystery surrounding Great Red Spot seems to deepen as the iconic storm contracts.

Researchers do not know whether the spot will shrink a bit more and then stabilise, or break apart completely. “If the trends we see in the Great Red Spot continue, the next five to 10 years could be very interesting from a dynamical point of view,” the researchers said.

“We could see rapid changes in the storm’s physical appearance and behaviour, and maybe the red spot will end up being not so great after all,” they added. IANS