Celestial flybys set to thrill in 2013

Updated 08 January 2013
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Celestial flybys set to thrill in 2013

PARIS: Astronomers are gearing for thrills this year when Earth gets buzzed by two rogue asteroids and two comets, including a wanderer last seen by the forerunners of mankind, blaze across the sky.
This week, the guardians who scour the skies for dangerous space rocks will be closely tracking an asteroid called 99942 Apophis. Apophis measures around 270 meters across, a mass able to deliver more energy than 25,000 Hiroshima bombs if it ever smashed into Earth.
Apophis sparked some heart-stopping moments when it was first detected in 2004.
Early calculations suggested a 2.7-percent probability of a collision in 2029, the highest ever seen for an asteroid, but the risk was swiftly downgraded after more observations.
Even so, for April 13, 2036, “there is still a tiny chance of an impact,” says NASA’s fabled Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which puts the risk at about one in 250,000.
One of the big unknowns is the Yarkovsky effect, a phenomenon discovered by a Russian engineer at the start of the 20th century.
A slowly rotating body that orbits close to the Sun experiences heating on one side of its body that then cools at “night” as it turns over. This alternate heating and cooling can cause a tiny momentum, depending on the body’s spin and amount of area that warms. The question is whether, over time, the Yarkovsky effect is accelerating Apophis, thus skewing estimates for future approaches.
Seeking clues, NASA’s deep-space radars at Goldstone, in California’s Mojave desert, and at Arecibo in Puerto Rico will be scanning Apophis, which on Jan. 9 will pass by at some 14.5 million km.
“Using new measurements of the asteroid’s distance and line-of-sight velocity, we hope to reduce the orbital uncertainties and extend the interval over which we can compute the motion into the future,” JPL’s Lance Benner said in an e-mail.
“It’s possible that the new measurements improve the orbit to the point that we can completely rule out an impact.”
On Feb. 15, a 57-meter asteroid, 2012 DA14, will skim the planet at just 34,500 km. In other words, it will spookily fly by inside the orbit of geostationary satellites. “It’s going to be the closest predicted flyby of an asteroid,” says Mark Bailey, director of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland.


Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

Engineers and researchers at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology display the payload they have developed after months of painstaking research and testing. (SPA)
Updated 21 May 2018
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Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

  • The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017,
  • Under the agreement, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space censoring system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.

JEDDAH: Saudi engineers and researchers have completed work on a payload for a Chinese space vehicle that will explore the moon, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017, the SPA said, quoting Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).
The joint venture intends to study and explore the moon, "particularly the invisible side of it to provide scientific data for researchers and specialist in space research and science."
As agreed upon by the KACST and the Chinese Space Agency, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space sensory system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.
"The payload was readied in a record time of no more than 12 months during which the Saudi research team faced numerous challenges, most prominent of which was the importance of manufacturing a compact payload with a high capacity of less than 10.5 cu.cm and a weight of no more than 630 grams on the Chinese satellite," the KACST head said.
The payload consists of photographic and data processing units, among others, that is not only light in weight but also able to endure the space environment.
The equipment is capable of taking photos from different angles and altitudes that varies according to the lunar orbit changes, Prince Turki was quoted by the SPA as saying.
"Saudi Arabia's taking part in this great event would boost, no doubt, its efforts to develop its satellite technologies and use it in several fields of reconnaissance and distance censoring as well as space telecommunications, in addition to proceeding with the march of catching the world race in this field," he said.