Find the mystery asteroid! ESA sends Christmas challenge over humongous asteroid | Tech News

Find the mystery asteroid! ESA sends Christmas challenge over humongous asteroid

The ESA has thrown a Christmas challenge for astronomy enthusiasts and has asked them to find a 262-foot wide mystery asteroid which will come dangerously close to the Earth. It is called the Christmas asteroid.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Dec 13 2022, 11:34 IST
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Asteroid
1/5 Space is full of objects, out of which only a few have been discovered. Asteroids are some of these objects. If you are not aware about the dangerous objects called asteroids, here are some facts you should know. First, did you know that asteroids are sometimes called minor planets? Well, they are. (Pixabay)
Asteroid
2/5 Differences between an Asteroid, Comet, Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite: According to the information provided by NASA, Asteroid is a relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun. Comet is a relatively small, at times active, object whose ice can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas. Meteoroid is a small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun. Meteor is the light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere and vaporizes, in short, a shooting star. While, Meteorite is a meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands upon the Earth's surface. (NASA)
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3/5 Asteroid: Size, frequency and impact- More than 100 tons of dust and sand sized particles are bombarded towards Earth everyday, according to NASA. While, about once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth's atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface. Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area. Only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth's civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences. Space rocks smaller than about 25 meters (about 82 feet) will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth's atmosphere and cause little or no damage. By comparison, asteroids that populate the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and pose no threat to Earth, can be as big as 940 kilometers (about 583 miles) across. (NASA)
Asteroid
4/5 How is an Asteroid Orbit Calculated? An asteroid's orbit is computed by finding the elliptical path about the sun that best fits the available observations of the object. That is, the object's computed path about the sun is adjusted until the predictions of where the asteroid should have appeared in the sky at several observed times match the positions where the object was actually observed to be at those same times. (Pixabay)
Asteroid
5/5 What is NASA doing to find and learn more about potentially hazardous asteroids and comets? NASA has established a Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), managed in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The PDCO ensures the early detection of potentially hazardous objects (PHOs) - asteroids and comets whose orbits are predicted to bring them within 0.05 Astronomical Units of Earth (5 million miles or 8 million kilometers) and of a size large enough to reach Earth's surface - that is, greater than approximately 30 to 50 meters. NASA tracks and characterizes these objects and issues warnings about potential impacts, providing timely and accurate information. NASA also leads the coordination of U.S. Government planning for response to an actual impact threat. (AFP)
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The ESA has asked observers to find a mystery asteroid approaching the Earth dangerously close on December 15. It is being called the Christmas asteroid. (Pixabay)

The 12 days of Christmas have begun and while many are preparing for the festivities, the European Space Agency (ESA) is adding to the excitement with its Christmas challenge. It has thrown a strange ‘Christmas challenge' for all the astronomy fans across the globe. And the challenge is to find a mystery asteroid floating around space. It is being called the Christmas asteroid. But this is not just a fun challenge, there is a terrifying fact underlying this space rock. It will make a dangerously close approach to the Earth on December 15 and there is always the fear that it may get pulled in by the Earth's gravitational pull. The 262-foot asteroid is large enough to cause massive destruction. Read on to know more about this ESA mystery asteroid challenge and whether you should be concerned about an asteroid strike.

ESA posted on its Planetary Defense blog post revealing more details around this Christmas challenge. According to the information provided, the asteroid is called 2015 RN35 and it is 262-foot wide. It is going to make the closest approach to the Earth on December 15 at approximately 1:42 PM IST. The space agency also highlighted that the real fear with this asteroid is that it will be passing by under two lunar distances. One lunar distance is the distance between the Earth and the Moon. So, the asteroid will be making its approach at just 686,000 kilometers, which is two lunar distances.

ESA gives out a mystery asteroid challenge on Christmas

However, you need not worry. According to ESA, the asteroid is likely to make a safe passage away from the Earth. So, if there is no risk of an asteroid strike, what is this challenge all about? ESA often does space challenges as interactive activities to engage its community of astronomy fans and this is part of it.

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To help the observers view the asteroid and take pictures of it, the space agency has shared more details around the asteroid approach. It said, “Observers in the Southern hemisphere will get the best view during close approach, but Europe will get a chance over the following days until about 19 December. From 15-17 December, 2015 RN35 will have a visual magnitude below 14. (For reference, Pluto has a visual magnitude of 14)”.

It further added that the Christmas asteroid should be visible on telescopes which are 30 centimeters and larger. Any observer who is able to capture the image of the asteroid should use the hashtag #ESAChristmasAsteroid on social media platforms if they wish to be featured on the official ESA channel.

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First Published Date: 13 Dec, 11:32 IST
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