BAN #97: Asteroids want to kill us, so we shot first

March 18, 2019 Issue #97

Subscribers impact my life like a 5-gram tantalum bullet moving at 300 meters per second

Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion

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

I was interviewed on the Space Junk podcast with hosts Tony Darnell & Dustin Gibson, where we talked about various astronomical catastrophes that can befall Earth. We mostly focused on asteroid impacts and giant solar storms, which in the scheme of things are the two most likely to occur (the odds of, say, a black hole getting close enough to us to do anything are so small the Universe could be a billion times older and it still probably won’t have happened).

It was fun to do, if a serious topic, but I have to say the URL for the podcast is a bit unsettling: Wow, I hope not, at least not soon! And the title, by the way, is “THE UNIVERSE IS TRYING TO KILL YOU WITH PHIL PLAIT” which seems to take away my agency and makes me a tool of the Universe.

I’m not trying to kill you! Quite the opposite, in fact. Find out how by listening to the podcast.

Pic o’ the Letter

A cool or lovely or mind-bending astronomical image/video with a short description so you can grok it

I recently wrote about the Japanese probe Hayabusa2 that shot a tantalum bullet into an asteroid in order to create a shrapnel cloud, so it could collect samples to return to Earth. In that post is a video created using images from the probe as it descended to the surface, shot the bullet, then pulled away as debris blew away in all directions. It’s extremely cool.

But then Roman Tkachenko came along and made it seriously cooler. He’s an amateur astronomers and image processer, and he took that data and mapped it to a bigger frame where we follow along with the probe. It holds the asteroid position steady and allows the small field of view of the camera to move around, so it’s like we’re looking out a window onto the surface. Watch!

Isn’t that amazing? It’s much easier to see the action this way, and it feels more real somehow. Roman is a gifted processor, and his Twitter feed is full of truly wondrous imagery and animations, especially the work he does with Rosetta images of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Give him a follow.

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[I had fun digging into this cluster for Monday’s post. Credit:  ESA/Hubble & NASA]

Monday March 11, 2019: The imperfect perfection of the star cluster NGC 1898

Tuesday March 12, 2019: The staggering beauty of galactic collisions

Wednesday March 13, 2019: Trump’s proposed NASA budget for 2020 is a disaster

Thursday March 14, 2019: Remind me again: Why exactly do we need the SLS?

Friday March 15, 2019: A panoply of extremely cool ExoMars images taken from high above the Martian surface

Et alia

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