Asteroid 86666 Is Headed Our Way. No, It Doesn’t Pose Any Danger

A giant asteroid – around 2.5 kms in diameter – is heading towards Earth. An asteroid of its size has the potential to cause global devastation if it was to hit Earth, but Nasa said the space rock poses no danger to us.

Termed Asteroid 86666 (2000 FL10),it is due to make its closest pass on Saturday, Daily Mail reported.

All asteroids are monitored by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab’s Near-Earth Object Observations programme.

The programme keeps track of the orbits of comets and asteroids and publishes warnings if one of these rocks is due to collide with Earth, or will come close to doing so.

The programme’s official Twitter handle addressed the speculation surrounding Asteroid 86666 by saying: “In response to Qs, asteroid 86666 will safely pass Earth Oct 10 by over 15 million mi/25 million km. It poses zero threat.”

The orbits of Earth and the asteroid began to significantly coincide at the start of September; they reach their closest points this weekend and throughout the course of next week.

They are then shown moving away from each other by mid-November.

Asteroid 86666 was first spotted 16 years ago in March 2000 by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona.

In August, Nasa was forced to post a blog dispelling the countless rumours and speculation about asteroids that were due to pass the Earth in September.

This speculation suggested that an asteroid would impact Earth, sometime between September 15-28 near Puerto Rico.

Paul Chodas, manager of Nasa’s Near-Earth Object office, was reported as saying at the time that there was “no scientific basis or shred of evidence” to confirm those rumours.

He added that there would be no Earth impacts “anytime in the foreseeable future” and all known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids have less than a “0.01 per cent chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years”.

Nasa Studying How Zero Gravity Affects the Brain

Nasa-funded researchers are studying brain structures and functions of the astronauts aboard theInternational Space Station (ISS) to understand how brain changes in space and ways to deal with those changes.

Astronauts have experienced problems with balance and perceptual illusions in microgravity. TheNasa-funded study is examining changes in both brain structure and function and determining how long it takes to recover after returning from space. Researchers are using both behavioural assessments and brain imaging.

For the study, astronauts complete timed obstacle courses and tests of their spatial memory, or the ability to mentally picture and manipulate a three-dimensional shape, before and after spaceflight. The spatial memory test is also performed aboard the station, along with sensory motor adaptation tests and computerised exercises requiring them to move and think simultaneously.

Astronauts are tested shortly after arriving aboard the station, mid-way through and near the end of a six-month flight.

Structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain are done pre-flight and post-flight. “We are looking at the volume of different structures in the brain and whether they change in size or shape during spaceflight,” said principal investigator Rachael D Seidler, director of the University of Michigan’s Neuromotor Behaviour Laboratory.

According to Seidler, both the behavioural assessment and brain imaging are important to help identify the relationship between physical changes in the brain and those in behaviour. “On Earth, your vestibular – or balance – system tells you how our head moves relative to gravity, but in space, the gravity reference is gone,” Seidler said.

“That causes these perceptual illusions, as well as difficulty coordinating movement of the eyes and head,” said Seidler.

These difficulties could have serious consequences for astronauts, especially when changing between gravitational environments, such as landing on Mars.

In those cases, astronauts will need to be able to perform tasks such as using tools and driving a rover, and they must be capable of escape in a landing emergency. The study results could also show whether astronauts return to “normal” post-flight because the brain changes back, or if the brain instead learns to compensate for the changes that happened in space.

Nasa Maps Sand Dunes on Mars

A new image from Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a resistant and highly fractured surface among sand dunes on the red planet.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter often takes images of Martian sand dunes to study the mobile soils.

These images provide information about erosion and movement of surface material, about wind and weather patterns, even about the soil grains and grain sizes, Nasa said. However, looking past the dunes, the images taken on July 30 also show the nature of the substrate beneath. Within the spaces between the dunes, a resistant and highly fractured surface is unveiled.

The fractured ground is resistant to erosion by the wind, and suggests the material is bedrock that is now shattered by a history of bending stresses or temperature changes, such as cooling, for example, ‘phys.org’ reported.

Alternately, the surface may be a sedimentary layer that was once wet and shrunk and fractured as it dried, like gigantic mud cracks, Nasa said.

In either case, the relative small and indistinct fractures have trapped the dark dune sand marching overhead. The fractures have become quite distinct, allowing us to examine the orientation and spacing of the fractures to learn more about the processes that formed them.