Asteroids

The New Horizons space probe has photographed its next target Ultima Thule

NASA has published an image captured by its New Horizons space probe in which its LORRI instrument detected Ultima Thule, the Kuiper belt object – but there may be two objects and/or a moon – that represents its next target for a flyby scheduled for New Year’s Day 2019. When the 48 photos combined in the image were taken, on August 16, 2018, New Horizons was still about 172 million kilometers (107 million miles) from Ultima Thule and being able to identify its target is positive because mission managers can start assessing any adjustments to the probe’s course.

Artist's impression of ‘Oumuamua with its emissions (Image ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes a research on the interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua whose authors believe that after all it’s a comet as its discoverers initially thought. A team of researchers led by Marco Micheli from the ESA SSA-NEO Coordination Center in Frascati, Italy, used observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope and various ground-based telescopes to follow ‘Oumuamua’s trajectory finding that it was different from the one calculated taking into account the various gravitational influences. The conclusion is that there’s a cometary activity that generates an additional boost.

Asteroid Ryugu

The Japanese space agency JAXA has confirmed that its space probe Hayabusa 2 has reached the asteroid Ryugu. It’s now at an altitude of about 20 kilometers and from there it will begin a series of observations of the surface in order to find the most suitable area to land. That maneuver will take place in October 2018 at a date yet to be determined.

2015 BZ509

An article published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters” reports the discovery of an asteroid in an orbit near Jupiter’s which has a retrograde orbit, which means that it moves in the opposite direction of the solar system’s planets and most of its celestial bodies. Cataloged as 2015 BZ509, it was discovered in 2014 and the analysis of its orbit with a series of simulations led to the conclusion that it came from another solar system.

Artist's impression of 2004 EW95 (Image ESO/M. Kornmesser)

An article published in the journal “The Astrophysical Journal Letters” describes the study of an asteroid cataloged as 2004 EW95 which confirmed it has anomalous characteristics, being the first in the Kuiper belt to show a considerable carbon content. A team of astronomers used ESO’s VLT to study an asteroid that probably formed in the belt between Jupiter and Mars before being pushed to the outer solar system.