Near-Earth Object 2000 SG344 – Is it an asteroid?

Hundreds of near-earth asteroids such as this one orbit around the sun. Some are bigger than a mile across and a collision with earth would cause global destruction. Others are much smaller such as Near-Earth Object 2000 SG344 discovered September 29, 2000. Its size is estimated at only 150 feet. But what is it? Why is it pacing with our planet in the earth's plane?  And could it hit the earth in 2071? Photograph courtesy NASA 2000.
Hundreds of near-earth asteroids such as this one orbit around the sun. Some are bigger than a mile across and a collision with earth would cause global destruction. Others are much smaller such as Near-Earth Object 2000 SG344 discovered September 29, 2000. Its size is estimated at only 150 feet. But what is it? Why is it pacing with our planet in the earth's plane? And could it hit the earth in 2071? Photograph courtesy NASA 2000.

November 5, 2000  Pasadena, California - Asteroids headed towards, or near, earth are in the news again. On Friday, NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office in Pasadena, California announced that a small object discovered on September 29th had a small chance of colliding with this planet in September 2030. In fact, this was the first asteroid-like object to be given a Number One on the Torino scale which measures space collision threats. The scale was developed in 1998 by Richard Binzel, Professor of Planetary Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to help categorize near-earth objects. It's a sliding scale from zero to ten. Zero is no threat. A ten means definite impact that would cause a global catastrophe. A category one means scientists think this new object deserves careful monitoring. Paul Chodas, Principal Engineer for the NEAR Program Office at JPL, said "This is the highest probability of impact that we have ever calculated for an object."

 

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Science, Environment and Medical Updates

International Space Station's first crew, left to right: William Shepherd, United States; Yuri Gizenko and Sergei Krikalev, Russia. Inside the Soyuz capsule for final time before historic launch at 2:53 AM EST on October 31, 2000 to spend at least four months orbiting the earth. Photograph courtesy NASA 2000.
International Space Station's first crew, left to right: William Shepherd, United States; Yuri Gizenko and Sergei Krikalev, Russia. Inside the Soyuz capsule for final time before historic launch at 2:53 AM EST on October 31, 2000 to spend at least four months orbiting the earth. Photograph courtesy NASA 2000.


October 30, 2000 -

International Space Station Historic Mission

­ NASA is counting down the hours until American astronaut Bill Shepherd will lead the first expedition to the International Space Station. The historic mission is scheduled to lift off on Tuesday, October 31st at 2:53 AM east coast time. Shepherd will be joined by two Russian cosmonauts, Yuri Gizenko and Sergei Krikalev. This expedition crew plans to spend nearly four months on the space station.

 

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Astronomy Updates

Stars Sirius A and B, a Chandra x-ray image courtesy NASA and Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
Stars Sirius A and B, a Chandra x-ray image courtesy NASA and Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

October 9, 2000  Cambridge, Massachusetts - The Chandra X-ray Observatory has been revealing layers of the cosmos around us with beautiful clarity. One of its x-ray images from October 1999 shows the Sirius A and B star system located 8.6 light years from Earth. The large central light is Sirius A, the brightest star in the northern sky in optical light. Sirius B is a white dwarf that is ten thousand times dimmer, but clearly shows up in x-rays. Because the two stars are so close together, Sirius B was not discovered until 1862 by Alvan Clark using the best optical telescope in the world at the time. The pink sapphire pattern is produced by the satellite's transmission grating. For comparison, below is an optical image by Arizona's McDonald Observatory.

 

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Unidentified Moving Spiral of Light Photographed in Crop Formation

Olympus digital camera photograph of unidentified light spiral taken on July 21, 2000 between 8 to 9 PM inside the White Hill crop formation in Lockeridge, Wiltshire, England © 2000 by Amica Kusaka, Okyamaa, Japan.
Olympus digital camera photograph of unidentified light spiral taken on July 21, 2000 between 8 to 9 PM inside the White Hill crop formation in Lockeridge, Wiltshire, England © 2000 by Amica Kusaka, Okyamaa, Japan.

September 30, 2000 Lockeridge, Wiltshire, England - Recently I received the above photograph from Amica Kusaka, a resident of Kusaka, Okyamaa, Japan. Before sending the color print, she e-mailed me the following information:

 

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Asteroid Eros: Up Close, and Then A Landing?

This color image of Eros was acquired by NEAR's multispectral imager on February 12, 2000 at a range of 1800 kilometers (1100 miles). Eros is 34 kilometers (21 miles) long, about 11 kilometers (7 miles) wide and a hundred million miles from Earth in the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars. The butterscotch hue is typical of a wide variety of minerals thought to be major components of asteroids such as Eros which has very little metal. Photograph from NEAR satellite courtesy of JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland.
This color image of Eros was acquired by NEAR's multispectral imager on February 12, 2000 at a range of 1800 kilometers (1100 miles). Eros is 34 kilometers (21 miles) long, about 11 kilometers (7 miles) wide and a hundred million miles from Earth in the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars. The butterscotch hue is typical of a wide variety of minerals thought to be major components of asteroids such as Eros which has very little metal. Photograph from NEAR satellite courtesy of JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland.

September 24, 2000  Laurel, Maryland - Scientists at the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission in Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory are recommending to NASA that the NEAR satellite now orbiting asteroid 433 Eros dive down to within five kilometers (3 miles) of the asteroid surface in late October. The South Pole of Eros, which has been pointed away from the sun until now, will be lighted and is the likely target area. There are also many features on Eros that scientists would like to see more closely, including ridges, troughs, large boulders and craters that are square. Detailed survey data has been published inScience and one of the puzzles for geologists and astronomers are many loose boulders laying around on the surface. Eros is a relatively small mass, so it was logical to expect a smoother surface from which debris would have been knocked off into space over its 4.5 billion year evolution from the beginning of the solar system.

 

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Infectious Diseases – A Global Threat

Influenza virus under microscope.
Influenza virus under microscope.


September 24, 2000  Atlanta, Georgia - Last week, epidemiologists from around the United States gathered in Atlanta with Center for Disease Control officials to come up with a plan to cope with the possibility of a worldwide flu epidemic. New flu strains emerge every thirty to forty years on average. The last major one was the Hong Kong flu in 1968, thirty-two years ago. So health officials are afraid the stage is set for another major influenza epidemic, or pandemic. The 1968 flu killed about 34,000 Americans.

 

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Evidence of 7000 Year Old Flood and Human Habitation Discovered Beneath Black Sea

Black ring indicates Sinop, Turkey and the area twelve miles north where marine geologist, Robert Ballard and his research team discovered "remains of an ancient structure that was apparently flooded in a deluge of biblical proportions."
Black ring indicates Sinop, Turkey and the area twelve miles north where marine geologist, Robert Ballard and his research team discovered "remains of an ancient structure that was apparently flooded in a deluge of biblical proportions."

September 17, 2000  Sinop, Turkey - This week a discovery twelve miles off the northern coast of Turkey near the town of Sinop (SIN-op) was announced that could force archaeologists and anthropologists to rewrite history about the relationship of Neolithic cultures in Europe, Asia and Mesopotamia seven thousand years ago.

 

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Black Holes – A Surprising Mass in the M82 Galaxy

Bright, near-white, oval X-ray image at center of frame on right is recent of the central region of a galaxy called M82 compared to image on left taken in June 2000. The anomalous V-shaped brightening in the left frame is a transitory intensity of x-rays that are unidentified but typical of x-ray fluctuations. Chandra X-ray Observatory images courtesy of NASA/SAO/CXC.
Bright, near-white, oval X-ray image at center of frame on right is recent of the central region of a galaxy called M82 compared to image on left taken in June 2000. The anomalous V-shaped brightening in the left frame is a transitory intensity of x-rays that are unidentified but typical of x-ray fluctuations. Chandra X-ray Observatory images courtesy of NASA/SAO/CXC.

September 12, 2000 Washington, D. C. - Today at NASA headquarters in the nation's capitol, astrophysicists presented new x-ray images by the Chandra X-ray Observatory that indicate something with the mass of at least 500 of our suns is packed into a region about the size of our moon in a nearby galaxy called M82. Such concentrated mass is probably a black hole. And if so, it is the first discovery of such a large black hole outside galactic centers. Until now, scientists have found evidence of small black holes only ten to twenty times bigger than our sun (one solar mass) or massive ones millions of times more massive than our sun, but only at the center of galaxies. This new discovery is at least 600 light years from the center of M82 and could be a new type of black hole that evolves and grows from the merger of many black holes. Further, the scientists reported that the intensity of the X-rays was rising and falling every 600 seconds, a ten minute cycle. Cycles are more consistent with matter falling into a black hole than the collapse of one gigantic star.

 

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Arctic Ice Melt Threatens Polar Bears

"If the prediction of total Arctic ice melt by 2030 is correct, then it is truly frightening because I think it would result in huge ecological changes to the polar oceans, the loss of species, changes of balance. The effects on climate change around the Northern Hemisphere particularly could be quite dramatic."

- Ian Sterling, Ph.D., Zoologist and Research Scientist

 Polar bear near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada on the western edge of Hudson Bay. Photograph © 2000 by Travel Manitoba.
Polar bear near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada on the western edge of Hudson Bay. Photograph © 2000 by Travel Manitoba.

September 10, 2000  Churchill, Manitoba, Canada - The Arctic and northern latitudes have been singled out by the World Widelife Fund as the most vulnerable to the rapid rate of global warming. Their sobering statistic is that 20 percent of all species in northern environments could die out as melting ice and tundra completely change the habitats.

 

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Hubble Photographs Mystery Object in Centaurus Constellation

"I have used the Hubble quite extensively to look at many dying stars and we've seen many mysterious and beautiful shapes and structures, but we've never seen such a jet-like structure."

- Raghvendra Sahai, Ph.D., Astrophysicist, Jet Propulsion Lab

In the top Hubble photo, the longest, nearly horizontal, jets of hot gas pulse outward from both sides of a mysterious object called He2-90. (The x-shaped streaks are reflections in the telescope). In the bottom Hubble photo, enhancement of the mysterious bright object is bisected by a large, vertical disk of gas and dust. Photographs in August 2000 courtesy NASA.
In the top Hubble photo, the longest, nearly horizontal, jets of hot gas pulse outward from both sides of a mysterious object called He2-90. (The x-shaped streaks are reflections in the telescope). In the bottom Hubble photo, enhancement of the mysterious bright object is bisected by a large, vertical disk of gas and dust. Photographs in August 2000 courtesy NASA.

September 6, 2000  Pasadena, California - At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, astrophysicists are puzzled by a bright object about 8,000 light years from earth in the constellation Centaurus. It is giving off large jet pulses that are more typical of star births. But there is also an accretion disk of gas and dust often associated with a dying star. The paradox of birth and death characteristics is forcing a re-evaluation of what has been considered a planetary nebula since the 1990s.

 

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