The entire Universe — or at least parts of it — as interpreted through the brain of Phil Plait: astronomer, science communicator, and goat herder.

Monday, August 13, 20181 like

BAN #35: Falling toward an asteroid, Mini Museum, Trek on a cruise with me

August 13, 2018 Issue #35

Subscribing won’t prevent an asteroid impact. OR WILL IT?

Astro Tidbit

A brief synopsis of some interesting astronomy/science news that may be too short for the blog, too long for Twitter, but just right (and cool enough to talk about) for here.

Last week, the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 did something very cool: It dropped toward the small asteroid Ryugu in what’s called a gravity measurement operation. The probe was commanded to freefall toward the asteroid, taking accurate measurements of the distance along the way. Once the data are complete, it’s a relatively straightforward bit of math to calculate the asteroid’s mass!

I haven’t heard the results yet, but during the operation Hayabusa 2 came within 851 meters of Ryugu’s surface. That’s just over half a mile, less than the asteroid’s own diameter!

When it was about a kilometer away, it took this amazing image:

[Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST, via The Planetary Society.]

Check that out! The scale bar is 10 meters, about the length of one half of a tennis court. You can easily spot rocks a meter across or less.

I was planning on writing up something about all this, but (as I should’ve expected) my friend Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society already did, and as usual she did an excellent job.

BTW if Emily’s name sounds familiar, it may be because I wrote about her in BAN #9. Or it may just be because you already know about her, as you very well should.

I recommend

Something I think you’ll like

I got the coolest thing in the mail: a Mini Museum!

These are amazing: A 10 x 7.5 x 2.5 cm block of clear plastic with rare and very, very cool things embedded in it. It’s literally a museum you can hold in your hand. I have the Third Edition, which has such specimens as a piece of Earth over 4.3 billion years old, a piece of a Jurassic tree, a bit of an Ankylosaurus bone, and even a piece of brick from the Cavern Club where the Beatles used to play in the 60s. You can see more here.

These little portable museums are very nicely done, come in a couple of different sizes, and each specimen in them is verified by Hans Fex, the Chief Curator. They also come with a well-done book describing everything in them, and are packed in a protective bag and box.

When I got one (full disclosure: they sent it to me as a gift) my wife and I sat and read the book as we looked at the displays, and marveled at them. We love it.

These are initially funded through a Kickstarter, but the fourth edition is available for pre-orders. These make for a terrific gift.

Upcoming Appearances

Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to

Reminder: I’m the guest scientist on Star Trek The Cruise III, which sails from January 4 – 10, 2019. This will be SO MUCH FUN. I did it last year and had a blast, and this year will be no different (except even better because my friends Wil Wheaton and Chase Masterson are coming, too). So come aboard! We’re expecting you! 

Oh wait, wrong show. Beam on over, then.

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI 

Monday, August 6, 2018: The Rosetta image archive of its target comet is now complete. Wanna peruse 100k images of an alien world?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018: TESS watches a comet (and variable stars and Mars and a bunch of asteroids) go by 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018: Ice blue meteorite crystals show evidence of an active young Sun

Thursday, August 9, 2018: How far away is Polaris?

Friday, August 10, 2018: A swirl of algae is gigantic and beautiful… but is a harbinger of something darker

Et alia

You can email me at (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!

The entire Universe — or at least parts of it — as interpreted through the brain of Phil Plait: astronomer, science communicator, and goat herder.