by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) May 16, 2012
A partnership with the UK's Faulkes Telescope Project promises to boost the Agency's space hazards research while helping students to discover potentially dangerous space rocks. ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme is keeping watch over space hazards, including disruptive space weather, debris objects in Earth orbit and asteroids that pass close enough to cause concern.
The asteroids - known as 'near-Earth objects', or NEOs, since they cross Earth's orbit - are a particular problem.
Any attempt to survey and catalogue hazardous asteroids faces a number of difficulties. They're often jet black or at least very dark, they can approach rather too close before anyone sees them, and they're often spotted only once and then disappear before the discovery can be confirmed.
Crowdsourcing the astronomy community
This month, the UK's Faulkes Telescope Project will become the latest team to formally support the SSA programme. Spain's La Sagra Sky Survey, operated by the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca, began helping SSA earlier this year.
Sharing expertise and observing time
"In return, we share observing time at ESA's own Optical Ground Station in Tenerife and provide advice, support and professional validation. We'll assist them in any way we can."
The Faulkes Telescope Project runs both educational and research programmes, based at the University of Glamorgan in the UK.
Public education and outreach
"Our new cooperation with ESA is a great opportunity. Use of the 2 m-diameter telescopes in Hawaii and Siding Spring, Australia, will greatly enhance asteroid-spotting for the SSA programme, enabling fainter object detection and tracking from a global telescope network," says Nick Howes, Pro-Am Programme Manager at the Faulkes Telescope.
"For European students, collaborating on exciting ESA activities and possibly detecting new NEOs is very appealing, as it's engagement with one of the world's great space agencies doing critical scientific work."
ESA's SSA programme is developing services and infrastructure to enable Europe to observe NEOs, predict their orbits, produce impact warnings and be involved in possible mitigation measures and civil response.
It will also provide services to monitor man-made debris objects in orbit that can pose hazards to satellites and to monitor the effects of space weather phenomena on space and ground assets.
Space Situational Awareness at ESA
Faulkes Telescope Project
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology
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Dawn reveals complexities of ancient asteroidal world
Tempe, AZ (SPX) May 11, 2012
New findings from NASA's Dawn spacecraft lay the groundwork for the first geological overview of asteroid (4)Vesta and confirm the existence of not one but two giant impact basins in its southern hemisphere. The findings, published this week in a set of Science papers, will help scientists better understand the early solar system and processes that occurred as it formed and evolved. The Da ... read more
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