Asteroids In the News

Bizarre shape of interstellar asteroid   BBC - November 20, 2017

An asteroid that visited us from interstellar space is one of the most elongated cosmic objects known to science, a study has shown. Discovered on 19 October, the object's speed and trajectory strongly suggested it originated in a planetary system around another star. Astronomers have been scrambling to observe the unique space rock, known as 'Oumuamua, before it fades from view. Their results so far suggest it is at least 10 times longer than it is wide. That ratio is more extreme than that of any asteroid or comet ever observed in our Solar System.

Primordial asteroids discoveries include a void in the main belt and the oldest family of asteroids   Science Daily - August 3, 2017
Astronomers recently discovered a relatively unpopulated region of the main asteroid belt, where the few asteroids present are likely pristine relics from early in solar system history. The team used a new search technique that also identified the oldest known asteroid family, which extends throughout the inner region of the main asteroid belt.

Clues to ancient giant asteroid found in Australia   PhysOrg - May 16, 2016

Scientists have found evidence of a huge asteroid that struck the Earth early in its life with an impact larger than anything humans have experienced. Tiny glass beads called spherules, found in north-western Australia were formed from vaporized material from the asteroid impact. The impact would have triggered earthquakes orders of magnitude greater than terrestrial earthquakes, it would have caused huge tsunamis and would have made cliffs crumble.

Congress Passes Landmark Space Mining Rights Bill   Epoch Times - November 11, 2015
The Senate has passed legislation expected to spur the development of the space mining industry, by establishing property rights for minerals harvested in outer space and lengthening the period for which space companies would be exempt from certain regulatory bodies. Rare earth minerals are abundant on asteroids throughout the solar system, including the six platinum group metals, and the value of minerals buried inside a single asteroid could figure in the hundreds of billions.

Asteroid Impacts 3.3 Billion Years Ago Caused Earth's Oceans To Boil   Huffington Post - May 28, 2015
Some 3.3 billion years ago, monster asteroids -- in some cases bigger than Rhode Island -- repeatedly slammed into the Earth with impacts so violent that air temperatures soared to 932 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks at a time, according to a new study published in the journal Geology.

'Largest ever asteroid impact' found in Australia   BBC - March 24, 2015

The 400-kilometre (250-mile) wide area is buried deep in the earth's crust and consists of two separate impact scars. The team behind the discovery, from the Australian National University (ANU), said the asteroid broke into two before it hit, with each fragment more than 10km across. The impact is thought to have occurred at least 300 million years ago. The surface crater has long since disappeared from central Australia's Warburton Basin but geophysical modeling below the surface found evidence of two massive impacts.

Largest-ever meteorite crater found in Australian outback - March 23, 2015
Scientists have discovered two deep scars in the earth's crust in outback Australia that are believed to mark the remains of a meteorite crater with a 250-mile diameter the largest ever found. The scars are each more than 120 miles in diameter and are believed to mark the spot where a meteorite split into two, moments before it slammed into earth. The impact is believed to have occurred more than 300 million years ago.

Asteroid impacts on Earth make structurally bizarre diamonds   PhysOrg - November 21, 2014

Scientists have argued for half a century about the existence of a form of diamond called lonsdaleite, which is associated with impacts by meteorites and asteroids. A group of scientists based mostly at Arizona State University now show that what has been called lonsdaleite is in fact a structurally disordered form of ordinary diamond.

10199 Chariklo is the largest known "centaur" or minor planet orbiting between the gas giants. It orbits the Sun between Saturn and Uranus, grazing the orbit of Uranus. On 26 March 2014, astronomers announced the discovery of two rings nicknamed Oiapoque and Chui, after two rivers that form the northern and southern coastal borders of Brazil, around Chariklo by observing a stellar occultation.

  Two Rings for Asteroid Chariklo   NASA - April 9, 2014
Asteroids can have rings. In a surprising discovery announced two weeks ago, the distant asteroid 10199 Chariklo was found to have at least two orbiting rings. Chariklo's diameter of about 250 kilometers makes it the largest of the measured centaur asteroids, but now the smallest known object to have rings. The centaur-class minor planet orbits the Sun between Saturn and Uranus. The above video gives an artist's illustration of how the rings were discovered. As Chariklo passed in 2013 in front of a faint star, unexpected but symmetric dips in the brightness of the star revealed the rings. Planetary astronomers are now running computer simulations designed to investigate how Chariklo's unexpected ring system might have formed, how it survives, and given the asteroid's low mass and close passes of other small asteroids and the planet Uranus, how long it may last.

Icy Chariklo asteroid has ring system   BBC - March 26, 2014
The asteroid Chariklo has been confirmed as the smallest object in the Solar System to display a ring system. Encircling bands of material are more usually associated with the giant planets, such as Saturn and Uranus. Chariklo may be just 250km wide but observations made when it passed in front of a distant star reveal the presence of two distinct rings.

  Watch Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Whip Past Earth   National Geographic - February 18, 2014
A giant space rock three times the size of football field is about to sail past Earth. Its passage will be broadcast live around the world via the web. Thankfully there was no chance of collision.

A close call in space tonight: Asteroid zips by Earth   CNN - February 18, 2014
Only in space would 2 million miles be considered a close call. An asteroid with an estimated diameter of three football fields zoomed by Earth late Monday, missing our home by about that distance. It traveled at some 27,000 miles per hour.

Rock from heaven is a scientists' delight   PhysOrg - February 12, 2014

A year ago on Saturday, inhabitants of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk looked skyward, some frozen in fear that a nuclear war had begun. Overhead, an asteroid exploded in a ball of fire, sending debris plummeting to Earth in brilliant streaks. The shockwave blew out windows, hurting about 1,600 people, and the burst of ultraviolet light was so strong that more than two dozen people suffered skin burns. Today, enshrined in Russia's folk memory as a big scare, the Chelyabinsk Meteorite, for space scientists, is a boon. They say it has yielded unprecedented insights into the makeup and orbit of asteroids and the risks that a rogue rock may pose to Earth. Only a few asteroids ever cross Earth's path. Fewer still survive the fiery contest of friction with the atmosphere. Those that do are likely to fall in the sea, which covers more than two-thirds of the planet, or in a remote area, such as desert, tundra or Antarctica.

Asteroid 2005 YU55 Passes the Earth   NASA - November 9, 2011

Asteroid 2005 YU55 passed by the Earth yesterday, posing no danger. The space rock, estimated to be about 400 meters across, coasted by just inside the orbit of Earth's Moon. Although the passing of smaller rocks near the Earth is not very unusual -- in fact small rocks from space strike Earth daily -- a rock this large hasn't passed this close since 1976. Were YU55 to have struck land, it might have caused a magnitude seven earthquake and left a city-sized crater. A perhaps larger danger would have occurred were YU55 to have struck the ocean and raised a large tsunami. The above radar image was taken two days ago by the Deep Space Network radio telescope in Goldstone, California, USA. YU55 was discovered only in 2005, indicating that other potentially hazardous asteroids might lurk in our Solar System currently undetected. Objects like YU55 are hard to detect because they are so faint and move so fast. However, humanity's ability to scan the sky to detect, catalog, and analyze such objects has increased notably in recent years.

New horseshoe orbit Earth-companion asteroid discovered   PhysOrg - April 6, 2011

Apostolos Christou and David Asher from the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland announced the discovery of an asteroid near Earth called Asteroid 2010 SO16 and their findings were published on While finding near-Earth asteroids is not unusual, there is something quite rare about this particular asteroid in that it orbits the sun in what is referred to as a horseshoe orbit.

First Asteroid Dust Brought to Earth Holds Clues to Planet Birth   National Geographic - November 24, 2010

Flecks of dust recently brought back to Earth by a Japanese probe are already helping astronomers create a more accurate picture of a near-Earth asteroid. The find could eventually lead to new understanding of the history of our solar system. Last week scientists confirmed that the recovery chamber aboard the Hayabusa spacecraft contained about 1,500 particles from the surface of the asteroid Itokawa.

25,000 new asteroids found by NASA's sky mapping   PhysOrg - July 16, 2010

Worried about Earth-threatening asteroids? One of NASA's newest space telescopes has spotted 25,000 never-before-seen asteroids in just six months.

  "New World" Asteroid Photographed Up Close   National Geographic - July 13, 2010

Scientists have detected water-ice on the surface of an asteroid   BBC - April 29, 2010

A frosty space rock with organic materials may offer new proof that asteroids delivered water and the origins of life to Earth.

P/2010 A2: Unusual Asteroid Tail Implies Powerful Collision   NASA - February 3, 2010

Suspected Asteroid Collision Leaves Odd X-Pattern of Trailing Debris   Physorg- February 2, 2010
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has imaged a mysterious X-shaped debris pattern and trailing streamers of dust that suggest a head-on collision between two asteroids. Astronomers have long thought that the asteroid belt is being ground down through collisions, but such a smashup has never before been seen.

Asteroid explosion was a whopper for Earth   MSNBC - October 29, 2009
A space rock explosion earlier this month over an island region of Indonesia is now being viewed as perhaps the biggest object to tangle with the Earth in more than a decade.

Meteorites in Africa Traced to Asteroid "Parent"   National Geographic - March 25, 2009 Almahata Sitta 15 NASA - March 28, 2009
... the first material recovered from a known asteroid.

  Tunguska-sized space rock buzzes Earth   New Scientist - March 2, 2009

Surprise Asteroid Buzzed Earth   National Geographic - March 2, 2009
Sky-watchers in Asia, Australia, and the Pacific islands welcomed a surprise guest Monday: an asteroid that passed just 41,010 miles (66,000 kilometers) above Earth. Discovered only days ago, asteroid 2009 DD45 zipped between our planet and the moon at 13:44 universal time (8:44 a.m. ET). The asteroid was moving at about 12 miles (20 kilometers) a second when it was closest to Earth. Astronomers didn't notice the oncoming asteroid until February 28, when it showed up as a faint dot in pictures taken at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. At that point the asteroid was already a mere 1.5 million miles (2.4 million kilometers) from Earth, and closing in fast.

Solar System's Young Twin Has Two Asteroid Belts PhysOrg - October 28, 2008

This artist's diagram compares the Epsilon Eridani system to our own solar system. The two systems are structured similarly, and both host asteroids (brown), comets (blue) and planets (white dots). Epsilon Eridan's inner asteroid belt is located at about the same position as ours, approximately three astronomical units from its star (an astronomical unit is the distance between Earth and the sun.). The system's second, denser belt lies at about the same place where Uranus orbits in our solar system, or 20 astronomical units from the star. Epsilon Eridani is thought to have planets orbiting near the rims of its two belts. The first of these planets was identified in 2000 via the radial velocity technique. The second planet orbiting near the rim of the outer asteroid belt at 20 astronomical units was inferred when Spitzer discovered the belt. A third planet might orbit in Epsilon Eridani at the inner edge of its outermost comet ring, which lies between 35 and 90 astronomical units. This planet was first hinted at in 1998 due to observed lumpiness in the comet ring.

Sumerian Cuneiform Clay tablet translated - holds clue to asteroid impacts PhysOrg - March 31, 2008

A cuneiform clay tablet that has puzzled scholars for over 150 years has been translated for the first time. The tablet is now known to be a contemporary Sumerian observation of an asteroid impact at Kofels, Austria and is published in a new book, 'A Sumerian Observation of the Kofels' Impact Event.' The giant landslide centered at Kofels in Austria is 500m thick and five kilometres in diameter and has long been a mystery since geologists first looked at it in the 19th century. The conclusion drawn by research in the middle 20th century was that it must be due to a very large meteor impact because of the evidence of crushing pressures and explosions. But this view lost favor as a much better understanding of impact sites developed in the late 20th century. In the case of Kofels there is no crater, so to modern eyes it does not look as an impact site should look. However, the evidence that puzzled the earlier researchers remains unexplained by the view that it is just another landslide.

Asteroids Spin Faster Due to Solar Power, Studies Show   National Geographic - March 7, 2007

Sunlight can speed up or slow down the spin of small asteroids, according to a trio of related papers appearing this week. The discovery offers the first direct evidence of a predicted asteroid behavior.

Corkscrew Asteroid   NASA - June 9, 2006

News flash: Earth has a "second moon." Asteroid 2003 YN107 is looping around our planet once a year. Measuring only 20 meters across, the asteroid is too small to see with the unaided eye but it is there. This news, believe it or not, is seven years old.

Asteroid Probe Offers New Views of Near-Earth Object   National Geographic - June 2, 2006

The Itokawa asteroid is made up of loosely packed bits of sand and boulders
25143 Itokawa Wikipedia

Relic of ancient asteroid found   BBC - May 10, 2006

A large fragment of an asteroid that punched 160km-wide (100 miles) hole in the Earth's surface has been found.

Asteroid Belt Discovered Around Our Sun's "Twin"   National Geographic - April 21, 2005
NASA's orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope has found evidence of a massive asteroid belt around a "twin" of our own sun. Kim Weaver, a Spitzer Space Telescope scientist, said the finding marks "the first time that scientists have found evidence for a massive asteroid belt around a mature, sunlike star." "This region around the star is the sort of place where rocky planets [like Earth] may form," Weaver said yesterday at a press conference from NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. The star, dubbed HD69830, is some 41 light-years away - which, in space terms, is practically our own backyard. Part of the constellation Puppis, the star is a tad too faint to see with the unaided eye. The discovery may help reveal how other Earth-like planets could be formed and whether our own solar system is common or unique in space.

Space rock caused 'great dying' BBC - November 21, 2003
Scientists have found new evidence that the greatest extinction in the Earth's history was triggered by an asteroid. About 250 million years ago, something unknown wiped out most of the life on the planet. It was far more devastating than the impact that ended the rule of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Hermes: Asteroid found after 66 years lost in space   BBC - October 17, 2003

Astronomers have seen a large asteroid that they first found 66 years ago and then lost in the depths of space. It is called Hermes and it entered the record books by making a close approach to the Earth, just beyond the Moon.

Voyage to the asteroid belt   BBC - April 10, 2003

British scientists are planning to send a swarm of miniature spacecraft beyond Mars to study the origin of asteroids that might pose a threat to the Earth.

Earth's little brother found   BBC - October 21, 2002

Astronomers have discovered the first object ever that is in a companion orbit to the Earth. Asteroid 2002 AA29 is only about 100 metres wide and never comes closer than 5.8 million kilometres (3.6 million miles) to our planet. But it shares the Earth's orbit around the Sun, at first on one side of the Earth and then escaping to travel along our planet's path around the Sun until it encounters the Earth from the other side. Then it goes back again.

Space rock's close approach   BBC - June 20, 2002

Astronomers have revealed that on 14 June, an asteroid the size of a football pitch made one of the closest ever recorded approaches to the Earth. It is only the sixth time an asteroid has been seen to penetrate the Moon's orbit, and this is by far the biggest rock to do so. What has worried some astronomers, though, is that the space object was only detected on 17 June, several days after its flyby. It was found by astronomers working on the Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid Research (Linear) search programme in New Mexico.

Asteroid's mystery 'blue ponds'   BBC - September 26, 2001

Eros: The bluish soils are a mystery. "Asteroids are more subtle than we imagined," says Dr Erik Asphaug, of the University of California, US, commenting on the data sent back by the Near-Shoemaker spacecraft as it touched down on asteroid Eros last February. The survey and landing carried out by the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (Near)-Shoemaker probe revealed Eros to be a tiny irregularly shaped world strewn with boulders, pitted with rocks, and, surprisingly, strange "mobile" soils. Eros is over four billion years old, a leftover from the formation of the planets, and has never been part of a much larger body. It bears the scars of numerous impacts but its composition has remained relatively unaltered. In low regions, scientists have observed "ponds" of bluish dust. It is speculated that they may have been lifted from beneath the surface by electrostatic forces, and flow like liquid into depressions.