Feeds

I found an asteroid! yells revived probe NEOWISE. Boffins nod politely

NASA scientists suffer deja vu after new pics arrive from spacecraft

High performance access to file storage

Pic Sorry, apocalypse fans: this asteroid probably won't get any closer to Earth than Moon-orbit distance. However, it puts an early win on the board for NASA's recently revived NEOWISE spacecraft.

The NEOWISE asteroid-hunter, revived in September after a two-year hibernation, sent back its first post-awakening images in December, snapping an already known rock called 872 Holder to prove that the craft was still operational. That asteroid had been discovered on the spacecraft's first mission, in which it discovered more than 34,000 objects.

The near-Earth asteroid that appeared in images taken on December 29 has been designated 2013 YP139.

Currently 43 million kilometres distant, 2013 YP139 is believed to be a pretty big rock, at 650 metres diameter, and NASA describes it as “extremely dark, like a piece of coal”.

While classified as “potentially hazardous”, because it could possibly pass within 300,000 km, the astronomers' calculations don't put it even that close anytime in the next 100 years. Given its size, that's probably a good thing: the damage caused by the Chelyabinsk asteroid last year in Russia came from an object estimated at a mere 17-20 metres in size.

The NEOWISE observations, shown in the image below, were confirmed by the University of Arizona's Spacewatch telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tuscon. In a nice hat-tip to the world of amateur astronomy, NASA also notes that follow-up observations were performed by Peter Birtwhistle, using the Great Shefford Observatory in West Berkshire, England.

NEOWISE image detail

Detail of the NEOWISE image of 2013 YP139. Full image here.

NEOWISE – originally WISE – was mothballed at the end of its original mission, when the solid hydrogen that cooled its telescope to 7.6 Kelvin was exhausted. That ended its first life as a hunter of extremely dim objects.

However, NASA was able to secure funding for the new asteroid-hunting mission, which will run until mid-year. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.