Astronomy Picture of the Day
APOD: 1998 July 12 - Asteroid Gaspra's Best Face
Explanation: Asteroid 951 Gaspra is a huge rock tumbling in space. Gaspra became one of the best-studied asteroids in 1991 when the spacecraft Galileo flew by. In the above photograph, subtle color variations have been exaggerated to highlight changes in reflectivity, surface structure and composition. Gaspra is about 20 kilometers long and orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
APOD: 1999 August 7 - Ida and Dactyl: Asteroid and Moon
Explanation: This asteroid has a moon! The robot spacecraft Galileo currently exploring the Jovian system, encountered and photographed two asteroids during its long journey to Jupiter. The second asteroid it photographed, Ida, was discovered to have a moon which appears as a small dot to the right of Ida in this picture. The tiny moon, named Dactyl, is about one mile across, while the potato shaped Ida measures about 36 miles long and 14 miles wide. Dactyl is the first moon of an asteroid ever discovered. The names Ida and Dactyl are based on characters in Greek mythology. Do other asteroids have moons?
APOD: 1998 March 16 - Asteroids in the Distance
Explanation: Rocks from space hit Earth every day. The larger the rock, though, the less often Earth is struck. Many kilograms of space dust pitter to Earth daily. Larger bits appear initially as a bright meteor. Baseball-sized rocks and ice-balls streak through our atmosphere daily, most evaporating quickly to nothing. Significant threats do exist for rocks near 100 meters in diameter, which strike Earth roughly every 1000 years. An object this size could cause significant tidal waves were it to strike an ocean, potentially devastating even distant shores. A collision with a massive asteroid, over 1 km across, is more rare, occurring typically millions of years apart, but could have truly global consequences. Many asteroids remain undiscovered. In fact, the discovery of several was announced last week; one is shown as the long blue streak in the above photograph. Such an interplanetary collision would not affect Earth's orbit so much as raise dust that would affect Earth's climate. One likely result is a global extinction of many species of life, possibly dwarfing the ongoing extinction occurring now.
Authors & editors:
& Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.