Tag Archives: space

‘Near miss’ asteroid – how long until one hits?

Friday 15 February marks the day an asteroid the size of a small office block is due to pass by Earth in one of the closest ‘near-misses’ in recent history. Although thankfully researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have reassured us that there is no chance of this one actually hitting Earth – it does raise the more pressing question of – will it happen one day, and if so, what devastation will it cause?

Weighing 130,000 tonnes and travelling at over 28,000 miles per hour – if this one was to hit Earth, it would likely take out an area the size of London. At Bayfordbury Observatory, astronomers Dr Mark Gallaway and David Campbell lead on a programme to monitor these ‘near earth objects’ (NEO), months, sometimes years in advance in order to understand their obit, what they are made of, and effective ways to change their path – should they be on a collision course to Earthasteroid passing - artists impression web.

Mark said: “Although there is absolutely no chance of this particular asteroid hitting Earth, it does highlight the dangers of so called ‘Near Earth Objects’ of which about ten thousand of the expected one million have been identified.

“By monitoring its movements we will be able to improve our understanding of these potentially hazardous objects.”

Too faint to see with the naked eye, the asteroid, which will pass closest to Australia on Friday night, will be visible through binoculars in the direction of the ‘plough’ constellation at approximately 9pm.

For more information on the research undertaken by Bayfordbury Observatory, visit http://www.herts.ac.uk/bayfordbury/research-at-bayfordbury-observatory

New super-Earth detected within the habitable zone of a nearby cool star

I have been working as part of an international team of scientists that have discovered a potentially habitable super-Earth orbiting a nearby star.

The planet’s host star is well-established to have a different makeup from that of our Sun, lacking the metallic elements which are the building blocks of terrestrial planets. This means habitable planets could form in a greater variety of environments than previously believed.

The new planet is expected to absorb about the same amount of energy from its star that the Earth absorbs from the Sun. This would allow surface temperatures similar to Earth and perhaps liquid water. Further study will be necessary to understand what the planet’s atmosphere but so far this planet is the best bet to host liquid water.

The planet is located in orbit around a nearby red dwarf star and so will be an excellent target for further study. A landmark of this study is the re-analysis and combination of data from two telescopes in Chile and one in Hawaii. Being able to confirm orbits in this way is a very powerful technique to discover signals that are close to the noise signal of a single instrument.

University of Hertfordshire researchers are developing pioneering Bayesian techniques in order to make further exciting new discoveries in this way.

More information on this story, including a link to the research paper can be found on the University’s website.