Sunday, January 25, 2015

Education: Asteroid to Fly By Earth Safely on 26 January

 Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Tomorrow, January 26. 2015, an asteroid, designated 2004 BL86, will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the moon. 

"Sky charts for asteroid 2004 BL86, safely passing Earth Jan 26, 16:19 UTC/11:19am EST. Not naked-eye visible."

Some information:

From its reflected brightness, astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about a third of a mile (0.5 kilometers) in size. The flyby of 2004 BL86 will be the closest by any known space rock this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past Earth in 2027.
At the time of its closest approach on January 26, the asteroid will be approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth.

image: credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2004 BL86, which will come no closer than about three times the distance from Earth to the moon on Jan. 26, 2015. Due to its orbit around the sun, the asteroid is currently only visible by astronomers with large telescopes who are located in the southern hemisphere. But by Jan. 26, the space rock's changing position will make it visible to those in the northern hemisphere. See video
"Monday, January 26 will be the closest asteroid 2004 BL86 will get to Earth for at least the next 200 years," (...) "And while it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it's a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more."
Don Yeomans
Don Yeomans is retiring as manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, after 16 years in the position. 
One way NASA scientists plan to learn more about 2004 BL86 is to observe it with microwaves .
NASA's Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will attempt to acquire science data and radar-generated images of the asteroid during the days surrounding its closest approach to Earth.
"When we get our radar data back the day after the flyby, we will have the first detailed images," said radar astronomer Lance Benner of JPL, the principal investigator for the Goldstone radar observations of the asteroid. "At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there are bound to be surprises."
Asteroid 2004 BL86 was initially discovered on Jan. 30, 2004 by a telescope of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. 
JPL orbit solution #43, with star chart graphics produced using C2A.
How to watch?
The asteroid is expected to be observable to amateur astronomers with small telescopes and strong binoculars.
There's a reason to be enthusiastic?
"Asteroids are something special. Not only did asteroids provide Earth with the building blocks of life and much of its water, but in the future, they will become valuable resources for mineral ores and other vital natural resources. They will also become the fueling stops for humanity as we continue to explore our solar system. There is something about asteroids that makes me want to look up."
"I may grab my favorite binoculars and give it a shot myself," said Yeomans. 
Most of us are excited about Asteroid  2004 BL86. Teachers and students will be talking about it at Sceinces curriculum tomorrow morning at school.

2014 was a great year to Astronomy! Lunar eclipse (April 2014) ; Pluie d'étoiles (May 2014) , Summer supermoons (August 2014) ; Orionid shower (October, 2014). And now, Asteroid  2004 BL86

Science lessons tomorrow will be enhanced with the discussion of this incredible event.

Do you want a better science lesson ? After a good explanation and discussion in the classroom, let your students follow the @asteroidWatch updates.

Students  can write some good tweets about this awesome event?

Follow the activities of your students on Twitter to promote a good lesson.

Important links to teachers & students:
More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects :
To get updates on passing space rocks, follow @asteroidWatch

Hoping you will have an exciting lesson ! You and your students! 



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