Asteroid impact mission targets Didymos

22 February, 2013

I’ve just had this new article published by the European Space Agency:

“ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission now has a target: asteroid Didymos. The recent Russian meteor and, on the same day, our planet’s close encounter with an even larger chunk of celestial debris underline the need for us to learn more about these high-speed space rocks.

For the last two years, ESA has been working with international partners on the mission concept, dubbed AIDA. Last week, research centres each side of the Atlantic agreed the spacecraft would target asteroid Didymos. ...”

You can read the full article here.


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ESA Kids: Name our Mascot competition

19 February, 2013

For several months now, I’ve been writing for ESA’s Education Office. This enterprise aims at developing a new generation of European space scientists and engineers, and making school children in general more comfortable with science.

Part of the programme is aimed at young children. Known as ESA Kids, these are the most popular pages on the whole of ESA’s website. An alien mascot is used on the pages but it has never been given a name. Until now, that is.

ESA asked me to write a little story to introduce the alien and launch a competition to name him/her/it. Having written the children’s story Little Moon with my wife Nicola, we both jumped at the chance. You can read it here.


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Across The Universe: Asteroids and how to deflect them

18 February, 2013

I have a new post on my Guardian blog:

“Friday's Russian meteorite strike gives studies of ways to knock dangerous asteroids off course an added urgency

Science fiction author Larry Niven once joked: "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space programme." He meant that if we see an asteroid heading our way, we can launch a rocket to intercept it. But just how do we deflect an asteroid? ...”

Read the post here.


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Across The Universe: How to spot near-miss asteroid 2012 DA14

15 February, 2013

I have a new post on my Guardian blog:

“On Friday evening asteroid 2012 DA14 skims closer to our planet than any other known asteroid. Although invisible to the naked eye, binoculars can bring the space rock into focus. Or simply watch the webcast

Space rock 2012 DA14 is only 50 metres across. It will pass the Earth on Friday evening (UK time) just 17,100 miles above our heads. There is no danger of a collision. Nevertheless, this is closer to the Earth than many artificial satellites.

It will pass from the southern to northern hemisphere and set the record for the closest pass of any known asteroid since systematic surveys of the sky began in the mid-1990s. ...”

You can read the post here.


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The Guardian: Meteorite explodes over Russia: key questions answered

15 February, 2013

“Hundreds of people in Chelyabinsk have been injured after a huge meteorite flared in the sky above the city, but what is it? ...”

Like many, I woke up to the incredible news that a meteorite had struck Russia, injuring many people. As the events unfolded that morning, I put together this Q&A for the Guardian to place the impact in context.

Read the piece here.


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Across The Universe: Russian meteorite strike highlights asteroid danger

15 February, 2013

I have a new post on my Guardian blog:

“Friday's Russian meteorite strike highlights the need for a global strategy to deal with dangerous asteroids

In terms of human casualties, Friday's meteorite strike is the worst ever reported. Almost 1,000 are reported to have sought treatment after the fall. At least 34 of them were hospitalised, with two reported to be in intensive care.

Before this there were only stories of a dog being killed in Egypt by a meteorite in 1911 and a boy being hit, but not seriously injured, by one in Uganda in 1992.

The Russian Academy of Sciences estimate the fireball that streaked over the Ural mountains on Friday morning weighed about 10 tons. The speed of entry was at least 54,000 kilometres per hour (33,000 mph) and it shattered about 30-50 kilometres (18-32 miles) above ground, showering meteorites that caused damage over a wide area. ...”

Read the post here.


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