From time to time, as relevant images about minor objects currently in the news become available from observers or from public news sources, we include one with a brief caption at the top of our daily news. This page catalogs the images posted this year along with their captions and links. (Jump to this year's latest.)
Science@NASA has a news item, titled "Space Mountain Produces Terrestrial Meteorites," about one of the highest mountains in the Solar System, now being studied by NASA's Dawn Main Belt asteroid mission orbiting 4 Vesta. South is to the upper right in this image, perpendicular to the circum-Vesta grooves seen at lower left. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.
Radar imagery of 192642 1999 RD32 from March 9th from NASA/JPL Goldstone. The radar planning page, which has additional imagery, reports that this object of possible cometary origin "is a very large (~5 km diameter), slow rotator... The delay-Doppler images are clearly showing two lobes [and this may be] a binary or a contact binary asteroid." Credit: NASA/JPL Goldstone.
Comet C/SWAN 2012 was discovered by Ukrainian desktop observer Vladimir Bezugly in March 4th and 6th public imagery from SWAN aboard NASA/ESA's SOHO spacecraft. As Karl Battams explains in his live blog for this object, this is not just the first Kreutz group comet (out of many hundreds) to be detected by SWAN, but also the first to be discovered with that instrument. The above image is from SOHO's LASCO C2 camera at 2136 UT yesterday, and the comet isn't seen in the next C2 images from 0312 and later this morning. Image credit: NASA/ESA/SOHO.
Update: This object, which didn't survive, has been designated C/2012 E2 (SWAN).
The University of Arizona announced March 6th that "The Catalina Sky Survey, or CSS ... will receive a new NASA grant totaling more than $4.1 million to upgrade and operate its telescopes through 2015." This photo by Lori Stiles/UA shows the CSS Mt. Lemmon 1.5-meter telescope.
An unrelated news release from the European Space Agency yesterday tells about very close passer 2012 DA14 and promotes the agency's planned new Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program, which is "developing a system of automated optical telescopes that can detect asteroids just like this one."
The NASA/JPL NEO Program Office yesterday announced its new Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study (NHATS) Web site. See the intro, default table, and complete list in ascending object designation order. Illustration of an astronaut exploring a small asteroid, credit NASA/JPL NEOPO.
The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow posted a news release Sunday about a presentation on using swarms of small spacecraft to alter asteroid orbits through solar-powered laser ablation. The presentation was made recently to The Planetary Society, which provides funding [see Mirror (Laser) Bees]. Besides planetary defense, this work also applies to accessing the wealth of NEO resources. Illustration courtesy of U. Strathclyde.
Basic CubeSats are 10cm on the side and a liter in volume, and have been developed by and for student space programs worldwide, beginning at Cal Poly and Stanford in California more than two decades ago. Now this increasingly capable toolkit is being pushed beyond low Earth orbit. The 1st Interplanetary CubeSat Workshop will be held in late May in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and NASA/JPL will have related presentations at the annual CubeSat Developer's Workshop at Cal Poly this month, including "Applications ... to Small-Body Exploration." Photo courtesy of Cal Poly CubeSat Program.
Most of Earth's oldest impact craters, even those from colossal collisions, have been lost due to weathering and tectonic forces. News releases April 25th from Purdue University and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) report that new tools allow these impacts to be studied through thin layers of spherules that condensed from plumes of vaporized rock thrown high above Earth, such as these examples, each about a millimeter wide, from Western Australia (Jeerinah layer) from an event with worldwide effects 2.63 billion years ago. Photo credit: Oberlin College/Bruce M. Simonson.