NASA and ESA team up for historic planetary defense test

Two space agencies plan missions to deflect an asteroid.

ESA's Hera mission above asteroid 65803 Didymos. Credit: ESA/ScienceOffice.org
  • NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working together on missions to a binary asteroid system.
  • The DART and Hera missions will attempt to deflect and study the asteroid Didymoon.
  • A planetary defense system is important in preventing large-scale catastrophes.
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What was Planet V?

About 3.8 billion years ago, the inner planets were bombarded with a cataclysm of asteroids. Could Planet V have been the cause?

TIM BERTELINK via Wikimedia Commons
  • The Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB) occurred about 3.8 billion years ago, during which time Earth, Venus, Mercury, and Mars were assaulted by asteroids.
  • Scientists are pretty sure the LHB occurred, but they're not certain what caused it.
  • It could be that a hypothetical fifth inner planet once existed in our solar system. As it left, it may have caused the LHB.
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Asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs caused a mile-high tsunami

We knew the Chicxulub crater was massive. We just didn't know how widespread the damage actually was.

  • The asteroid that crashed into the Yucatan caused a mile-high tsunami.
  • The wave was 52 times higher and 2,600 times more energetic than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed over 227,000 people.
  • Sediment was disturbed 3,700 miles from the site of the crash.
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Would scientists tell us about a looming apocalypse?

If a doomsday asteroid is set to collide with Earth, you're going to know about it – whether you want to or not.

  • NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller fields one question with a heavy heart: If scientists knew there was a catastrophic asteroid heading towards Earth, would they tell us?
  • What about aliens? Is NASA hiding aliens from the public? Are they "in" on conspiracy theories? Scientists are, on the contrary, eager to communicate their findings to the media and the public, says Thaller.
  • "To me it speaks to the separation that somehow scientists are this monolithic inhuman group; that we could hide things, that we would want to," says Thaller. No single telescope owns the sky. If there's a doomsday asteroid coming, scientists all over the world are going to let the world know about it.
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Water may be an inevitable result of the process that forms rocky planets

New research identifies an unexpected source for some of earth's water.

  • A lot of Earth's water is asteroidal in origin, but some of it may come from dissolved solar nebula gas.
  • Our planet hides majority of its water inside: two oceans in the mantle and 4–5 in the core.
  • New reason to suspect that water is abundant throughout the universe.
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