B612 Foundation Announces Asteroid Finding Mission

SENTINEL orbit showing viewing direction (B612 Foundation/Ball Aerospace)The B612 Foundation announced today the first privately funded deep space mission.

The mission, Sentinel, is an asteroid finding spacecraft that will be launched into a venus-like orbit, from where it is able to map the region near Earth.

The spacecraft will be equipped with a 0.5m diameter Infrared telescope, and will scan the night half of the sky every 26 days.

The B612 Foundation announced today the first privately funded deep space mission.

The mission, Sentinel, is an asteroid finding spacecraft.

It will be launched into a venus-like orbit, from where it is able to map the region near Earth.  This orbit is the most suited to scanning the sky for NEOs, as the orbit closer to the Sun means the spacecraft will orbit the Sun faster than the Earth, covering the sky faster.  The improvement is due to the fact that the telescopes looking for NEOs cannot look towards the Sun, and so can only survey the night sky.

SENTINEL spacecraft (Ball Aerospace/B612 Foundation)

The Need for such a Spacecraft
Rusty Schweickart, Chairman Emeritus of B612, and Apollo 9 Astronaut said “for the first time in history, B612’s Sentinel Mission will create a comprehensive and dynamic map of the inner solar system in which we live – providing vital information about who we are, who are our neighbors, and where we are going”.  He added that “we will know which asteroids will pass close to Earth and when, and which, if any of these asteroids actually threaten to collide with Earth.”

Another key point made by Rusty Schweickart clearly explains the requirement on having such a telescope: “the nice thing about asteroids is that once you’ve found them and once you have a good solid orbit on them you can predict a hundred years ahead of time whether there is a likelihood of an impact with the Earth.”

NEOShield is working towards understanding NEOs such that a mitigation mission could be launched towards a NEO that is discovered on a path to Earth.  However, being able to deflect the asteroid is only half of the problem, as the location and orbit of all the potentally dangerous NEOs needs to be known.

The Sentinel Mission home page can be found at http://b612foundation.org/media/sentinelmission/

The video below includes some more information on the Sentinel mission and the B612 Foundation.

NEOShield Website Online Today!

NEOShield now has a website!
Welcome to www.NEOShield.net, the new home of the NEOShield project in the World Wide Web.

On this site you can find out about the NEOShield project itself, including about the project itself, as well as who’s in the team. Results and outputs of the project will also be here as they become available.

The site is also a good hub for general information about Near Earth Objects. There is a lot of background information here, which will be continually elaborated, as well as links if you need more detail.

There are many players all working on NEOs, from the science and understanding of the objects themselves and their behaviour to space missions to prevent impacts with Earth. If you’re unsure where to look, start here!

There is even a Glossary and FAQ to help you out.

New content will be continually added and updated. If you want to stay up to date, follow NEOShield on Facebook and Twitter.

Close Approach of Large Asteroid Today

Go21 Flyby Anim

A very large asteroid, 308242 (2005 GO21), is making its closest approach to the Earth today.

The approach distance is not as close as other NEO close approaches, at 0.0440AU, which is 17.1 times the distance between the Earth and Moon.  However, the asteroid is very large, somewhere between 1.4km and 3.1km in diameter, which is of a size that would cause global damage if it were to impact with the Earth.  Luckily such a NEO only impacts every several million years.

The exact point of closest approach is at 18:15 UTC (plus or minus one minute) on 21 June 2012. At this point, 2005 GO21 will be travelling at 13.27km/sec relative to the Earth.

2005 GO21 orbits the Sun once every 239 days, with a distance to Sun of between 0.5AU (closer than Venus) and 1.01AU (just further than the Earth).

Below is an animation in one day steps from one month before to one month after the close approach (Animation made with images from NASA/JPL NEO Program Orbit Diagram viewer)

NEOShield joins Facebook

NEOShield is now also on Facebook!

If you’d like to follow NEOShield and keep up to date or start a discussion on all the latest NEOShield, NEO, asteroid and planetary defence news, head over to www.facebook.com/NEOShield.

As a NEOShield fan, you’ll get all the NEOShield news first, as well as updates from around the world of NEOs and planetary defence.  We’ll point you in the direction of what’s happening. You’ll also be able to keep up to date with the latest NEO-related news from the NEOShield Team.

We’ll also be preparing NEOShield events and activities, and these will be posted to Facebook first.

And of course, the NEOShield website www.NEOShield.net will be always growing, so follow us to find out what’s new.