Tech & Science Mining the Heavens: Astronomers Could Spot Asteroid Prospects

14:45  18 june  2017
14:45  18 june  2017 Source:   MSN

1,000-Foot-Wide Asteroids That Could Hit Earth Discovered by Astronomers

  1,000-Foot-Wide Asteroids That Could Hit Earth Discovered by Astronomers A newly discovered branch of the Taurids meteor stream increases the risk to Earth but is a "lottery," scientists say.Scientists have discovered a new branch of the Taurid meteor stream that could pose a major risk to Earth, with asteroids up to 1,000 feet wide flying past us every few years.

But asteroid mining will face a critical problem, Elvis said: How to choose which asteroids will be worth the trip. And astronomers can play a crucial role in that determination, he said. Such a process could cut asteroid prospecting costs by a factor of 10, he said.

But asteroid mining will face a critical problem, Elvis said: How to choose which asteroids will be worth the trip. And astronomers can play a crucial role in that determination, he said. Such a process could cut asteroid prospecting costs by a factor of 10, he said.

Artist's illustration of Deep Space Industries' Harvestor-class spacecraft for asteroid mining. © Deep Space Industries Artist's illustration of Deep Space Industries' Harvestor-class spacecraft for asteroid mining. NEW YORK — Smithsonian astrophysicist Martin Elvis would like to see astronomers take on a crucial role for future asteroid mining: as astronomical prospectors scoping out the next big catch.

Elvis, a researcher with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts, discussed his dream for applied astronomy June 4 here at the Dawn of Private Space Science Symposium. Efficient asteroid mining would jump-start a space economy and bring down costs for exploration and space science, guiding humans into a modern space age, he said.

Do We Have To Worry About An Asteroid Strike?

  Do We Have To Worry About An Asteroid Strike? Just because an asteroid passes by Earth from a safe distance one year doesn’t mean it will always happen that way.It may never happen, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility, according to a report on Astrowatch.net. After all, scientists were briefly worried in 2004 about that asteroid striking Earth, before further calculations showed there was nothing to be alarmed about. It has passed through our space neighborhood since then without incident, but Apophis has future flybys scheduled and while the next couple are going to go pretty smoothly, others may not be as pleasant.

Smithsonian astrophysicist Martin Elvis would like to see astronomers take on a crucial role for future asteroid mining : as astronomical prospectors scoping out the next big catch. Elvis, a researcher with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts, discussed his dream for applied.

Astronomers could help asteroid miners identify the most promising targets, potentially slashing the cost of off-Earth resource extraction, Harvard astrophysicist Martin Elvis said. www.space.com/37155-astrono

"My basic goal is just to revolutionize our exploration of the solar system, of the universe," Elvis said at the conference. [How Asteroid Mining Could Work (Infographic)]

Right now, he said, spaceflight and space science is unsustainably expensive. But asteroid mining could play a critical role in making those endeavors doable on a smaller budget, as private companies like SpaceX have decreased the launch cost per pound of payload.

But asteroid mining will face a critical problem, Elvis said: How to choose which asteroids will be worth the trip. And astronomers can play a crucial role in that determination, he said. 

"The problem with asteroids is not many of them are valuable. You've got to find the right ones," he said. "We want to throw away that gray, stony stuff and deal with the carbonaceous or metallic ones, depending on whether you're looking for water or precious metals like platinum and palladium. So, this is where we [astronomers] come in."

The statistical likelihood that asteroids will destroy us all in 10 million years

  The statistical likelihood that asteroids will destroy us all in 10 million years Scientists have spent decades debating whether asteroids and comets hit the Earth at regular intervals. At the same time, a few studies have found evidence that the large extinction events on Earth – such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago – repeat themselves every 26 million to 30 million years. Given that there’s good evidence that an asteroid triggered the dinosaur extinction, it makes sense to ask whether showers of asteroids could be to blame for regular extinction events.

Astronomers could help asteroid miners identify the most promising targets, potentially slashing the cost of off-Earth resource extraction, Harvard astrophysicist Martin Elvis said. www.space.com/37155-astrono

Mining the Heavens : Astronomers Could Spot Asteroid Prospects . Mysterious Mazes Streak Saturn's Moon Titan. Watch Live Tonight!

As an example, Elvis pointed to the twin Magellan 6.5-meter telescopes in Chile. Professional astronomers could use telescopes of that size to characterize a faint asteroid in about 1-2 minutes. Eighty-five percent of asteroids could be thrown out based just on their color, he said, and the remaining 15 percent would be good prospects for sending small, exploratory probes using the data gathered about the objects' orbits and sizes. 

Even a few nights per year would allow for the characterization of about 300 such objects, he said. And as larger telescopes come online, like the European Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope, the midsize telescopes could become more accessible for even more space-mining projects, he said.

"This means astronomers can turn out to be useful again — [like] what [they] used to be, back in the days of navigation," he said. Similar to modern-day mining on Earth, there could be a multistep process of prospecting remotely — "you don't just go straight to start digging rocks" — before making a trip, Elvis added.

The statistical likelihood that asteroids will destroy us all in 10 million years

  The statistical likelihood that asteroids will destroy us all in 10 million years Scientists have spent decades debating whether asteroids and comets hit the Earth at regular intervals. At the same time, a few studies have found evidence that the large extinction events on Earth – such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago – repeat themselves every 26 million to 30 million years. Given that there’s good evidence that an asteroid triggered the dinosaur extinction, it makes sense to ask whether showers of asteroids could be to blame for regular extinction events.

Mining the Heavens : Astronomers Could Spot Asteroid Prospects . Mysterious Mazes Streak Saturn's Moon Titan. Home About Us.

Science & Astronomy . Mining the Heavens : Astronomers Could Spot Asteroid Prospects . Mysterious Mazes Streak Saturn's Moon Titan. Watch Live Tonight!

Such a process could cut asteroid prospecting costs by a factor of 10, he said. That would allow asteroid mining to flourish, lowering the cost commercially to put people and science in space.

On Earth, most of the precious metals, like platinum and palladium, are located 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) down, but they can come much nearer to the surface on asteroids. Those metals have dissolved in iron and were drawn to the center of the Earth, Elvis said, and the same thing happened on asteroids — but the asteroids were then smashed up enough that it made the precious metals much more accessible. (Comets also contain valuable resources, especially water, Elvis said, but the energy needed to reach those fast-moving bodies makes them less worth the cost to explore.)

So far, Elvis has talked to the asteroid-mining companies Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, but neither company initially believed that this kind of remote prospecting would be necessary, he said.

"Both of them are dominated by engineers who are very good at building small spacecraft, and I'm sure they will succeed at building interplanetary cubesat-scale spacecraft for prospecting at the asteroid, but they were initially unbelieving of what I just told you," Elvis said.

They might come around, though, he added. "One of the companies did eventually realize that this was a necessary precursor to their sending out satellites," he said. "The other still isn't interested."

Email Sarah Lewin at slewin@space.com or follow her @SarahExplains. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

Trappist-1 Solar System Has High Probability of Life .
Life on one planet could easily spread to another, according to the numbersAstronomers have counted thousands of previously unknown exoplanets—that is, planets beyond our solar system—in recent years, made possible most recently by the Kepler Space Telescope. Trappist-1 is a small star, just one-eighth the size of our own sun, about 40 light years away from us and inside the constellation of Aquarius. The seven planets orbiting Trappist-1 are relatively Earth-sized and relatively close to one another. And three of these planets orbit in what is called the "habitable zone," a distance from their star that would allow liquid water to pool on their surface.

Source: http://uk.pressfrom.com/news/tech-science/-173386-mining-the-heavens-astronomers-could-spot-asteroid-prospects/

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