Jupiter's Great Red Spot Is Responsible For The Planet's High Temperature

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Is Responsible For The Planet’s High Temperature

The atmosphere of Jupiter is hundreds of degrees hotter than expected, and astronomers think they finally know why.

The cause of the warming seems to bethe Great Red Spot (GRS), the largest hurricane in the Solar System. Using NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facilityin Hawaii,a British-American team discovered that the atmosphere above the GRS is both warm enough and the storm powerful enough to explain the 600C (1,112F) temperature excessseen on Jupiter.

On Earth, the surface and atmospheric temperatures are regulated by solar radiation, but in the outer Solar System, internal processes must become dominant. A simulation by the team showed thatusing sunlight alone would put the Jovian atmosphere below freezing.

With solar heating from above ruled out, we designed observations to map the heat distribution over the entire planet in search for any temperature anomalies that might yield clues as to where the energy is coming from, lead author James ODonoghue from Boston University explained in a statement.

ODonoghue performed observations of Jupiter with NASAs SpeX instrument to look at the infrared emissions of the planet. Jupiters southern hemisphere had some weird heating signature at certain longitudes and latitudes, and thecause was found to be the GRS.

The GRS is an incredible feature of the planet. It is large enough to contain more than two Earths, and it is an enormous source of energy. It pumps heat from the planet’s interior directly into the atmosphere, where it is then propagated by waves around the planet. This study, published in Nature, provides the first evidence of the effects of the GRSon the higher altitude of the planet.

Energy transfer to the upper atmosphere from below has been simulated for planetary atmospheres, but not yet backed up by observations, ODonoghue said.The extremely high temperatures observed above the storm appear to be the smoking gun of this energy transfer, indicating that planet-wide heating is a plausible explanation for the energy crisis.

This discovery goes beyond Jupiter itself. Unusually high temperatures are common in other gas planets in the Solar System, and it might be a shared feature of gas giants around other stars too. As it turns out, terrific atmospheric events like this might be the cause.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/jupiters-great-red-spot-is-responsible-for-the-planets-high-temperature/

Wind And Ancient Water Built Three Mile High Mound On Mars

Wind And Ancient Water Built Three Mile High Mound On Mars

In the 1970s, NASA’s Viking program observed enormously high mounds in Martian craters. It has taken until now for us to understand how wind can form these giants.

The one really scientifically inaccuratepart of “The Martian“is the dust storm at the start threatening to blow over an ascent vehicle. The thin Martian atmosphere is incapable of anything so dramatic, but like the proverbial birdsharpening its beak, given enough time even such weak forces can make mountains.

In Geophysical Research Lettersgraduate student McKenzie Day of the University of Texas at Austin has revealed how.

“There’s been a theory out there that these mounds formed from billions of years of wind erosion, but no one had ever tested that before,” Day said in a statement.”So the cool thing about our paper is we figured out the dynamics of how wind could actually do that.”

Gale Crater’scentral peak is called Mount Sharp. More than 5 kilometers (3 miles) high, base to tip, Mount Sharp surpasses the largest mountains on most Earth continents, but Mars’ low gravity allows such towering peaksit can be called a mound. Studying the mountain was a major reason the crater was chosen as the landing site for Curiosity, and Day used the information the rover has returned to explain the mound’s formation.

Day and colleagues built a physical model of Gale Crater 30 centimeters (12 inches) wide and 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) deep. Once packed with wet sand and exposed to a variety of air speeds in a wind tunnel, the model eroded into something similar to what can be seen in Gale and other craters.

The tunnel’s wind only came from one direction, and the short experiment didn’t dry out the model the way several billion years have done to Mars. Nevertheless, the pattern produced of a central mound surrounded by a moat near the crater’s rim is a familiar one from Mars.

Top line: Martian craters at different stages of erosion. Bottom line: Day’s model with time in the wind tunnel. Red is maximum elevation. Mackenzie Day

Crucially the process only worked because the sand was initially damp, creating a solid base. This fits with Curiosity’s observations that Mount Sharp’s bottom is made from sedimentary rocks from a time when the crater was a huge lake.

Studies of the Martian surface show that mounds only exist in places that probably held water during Mars’ Noachian period3.7 billion years ago. The findings offer a chance to learn more about what Mars was like during its wet period, possibly shedding light on the best places to look for remnant signs of life.

“On Mars there are no plate-tectonics, and there’s no liquid water, so you don’t have anything to overprint that signature,” saidDay. “Wind could never do this on Earth because water acts so much faster, and tectonics act so much faster.”

The future may be grim for Mount Sharp, however. Left in the wind tunnel long enough, the model mounds eroded away.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/wind-and-ancient-water-built-three-mile-high-mound-mars

Snowshoe Hare's Camouflage Thwarted By Climate Change

Snowshoe Hare’s Camouflage Thwarted By Climate Change

The forest-dwelling snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus)has the remarkable ability to change the color of its fur from brown in summer to white in winter in order to camouflage itself. However, as a new study in the journal Ecology Letters reveals, human activity is causing a snowfall reduction, leaving the wintry white hares standing out to predators like light bulbs, and increasing their mortality rate.

A recent study has suggested that two-thirds of all recent dangerous climatic events are directly attributable to human-produced (anthropogenic) greenhouse gas emissions. These impacts include the rapid alteration of ecosystems, including the types of forests inhabited by the snowshoe hare.

As the new study outlines, the snowshoe hare is remarkably well adapted to its North American environment. It is herbivorous in summer, but when resources are scarce in the winter, it is known to opportunistically become carnivorous to satiate its hunger. A nocturnal animal, it has specialized feet that prevent it from sinking into the winter snow and that protect it from very low temperatures.

A major predator of the hare is the lynx, a fast hunter over twice the size of the average domestic cat. Fortunately, the snowshoe hare has a clever defense mechanism: It is able to change its fur to white to match the color of the snowfall in winter, and brown to match the earthy ground in summer. These changes take about 10 weeks to completely occur, and are related to the production of melanin, a pigment, in its body. The more melanin in the fur, the darker it will be.

The summer morph of the snowshoe hair. Walter Siegmund/Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0

The rabbits detect the changes in the seasonal light through specialized retina cells, which let the brain know when to alter the production of melanin to match the fur coat color to the season. However, previous research has recognized that a decrease in snow due to increasing global temperatures has caused a mismatch between when the white fur appears and the start of a snowy winter.

In order to investigate if this causes an increase in mortality rate, the researchers of this new study tagged 186 snowshoe hares with radio collars in two large swaths of hare territory in Western Montana. These hares were monitored once a week for several years, particularly during the seasonal transitions from summer to winter.

As the light levels remained the same as global temperatures rose, the hares do indeed change their fur color too early for the increasinglydelayed snowfall; consequently, as the radio collars showed, their survival rate has been dropping for some time. In fact, their weekly survival rate suffers a 7 percent drop when snow arrives late or leaves too early.

This paper shows that the mismatch costs are severe enough to cause hare populations to steeply decline in the future unless they can adapt to the change, said Marketa Zimova, lead author of the study, in a statement.

Only time will tell whether or not individuals are able to change their fur color at slightly different times to adapt to the changing snow, and if they can survive long enough to pass on this ability to their offspring. Either way, the evolutionary clock for the snowshoe hare is ticking.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/snowshoe-hares-camouflage-being-thwarted-climate-change

Conspiracy Theorists Get Paper Withdrawn Through Bogus Legal Threat

Conspiracy Theorists Get Paper Withdrawn Through Bogus Legal Threat

A peer reviewed journal has withdrawn a paper on conspiracy theory belief amongst opponents of climate science. Not as a result of any factual errors or failure to meet academic standards, but because of the threat of defamation. As serious as this is, concern is even higher because legal advice holds that the paper is not defamatory and any law suit would fail. The withdrawal is a win for those hostile to climate change research and other conspiracy theorists in general, who in the lead author’s words, “routinely bombard journals demanding papers be withdrawn.”
 
The paper’s lead author, Professor Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia (UWA), says he is aware of only one previous peer reviewed paper that was withdrawn under the threat of defamation. He notes that opponents of climate research systematically bombard papers in which the research is published, and this may embolden them to make further threats. 
 
In Lewandowsky’s case the work was not climate research, but into the psychology of those who reject it. Nevertheless the tactics to “confect outrage” as UWA’s lawyer put it, are the same. Lewandowsky notes that peer-reviewed journals “fairly routinely receive demands to withdraw climate papers even before they have been published.” The people issuing the demands don’t know what is in the paper, but know that if it provides evidence for human influence on the climate then they don’t like it and want it censored.
 
If Lewandowsky’s work had been even potentially defamatory a few other authors might be worried about their own work being affected in the same way. However, it is hard to see who exactly he defamed. Aside from citations and summaries of past research, most of the paper refers to anonymous comments on blog posts. Defaming someone whose name is unknown is hard, to say the least. Moreover, Lewandowsky says that no one has disputed the accuracy of the quotes – his “defamation” appears to amount to pointing out factual or logical errors in the quotes, contradictions between quotes by the same person, and noting ways in which the statements show signs of conspiratorial thinking.
 
If any paper that criticizes flawed thinking is in danger of being withdrawn the affects might be widespread. 
 
In a paper published as part of a series by Lewandowsky in Psychological Science in 2012, he draws the not entirely surprising conclusion that people who believe in one unsubstantiated conspiracy theory are more likely to believe in another. Most amusingly, Lewandowsky found that people who believe Princess Diana was murdered on the orders of the Royal Family are also particularly likely to agree she faked her own death and is still alive. The fact that these could not both be true didn’t bother them – if you believe the truth has not been reported, there is a fair chance you will believe any particular story as long as it is not the one backed by logic and evidence.
 
More significantly, Lewandowsky found that believing all sorts of discredited ideas has predictive value for also being convinced that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing climate change. The association held both for a random sample of 1000 Americans, and in his study of those most outspokenly hostile to climate science online.
 
This engendered a lot of outrage. While many of those hostile to climate science also claim HIV doesn’t cause AIDS or NASA faked the Moon landings, those who agree with only some such things don’t like being lumped in with the crazies who believe the others. 
 
Allegations of academic misconduct were made to Lewandowsky’s university and he was hit with Freedom of Information demands to gain access to his emails. Lewandowsky found much stronger correlations with support for free market economics, but this didn’t generate the same angry reaction.
 
So Lewandowsky decided to do a study of the online response, monitoring blogs of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) deniers (the word is used in the psychological sense for someone who refuses to accept strong evidence). That paper, Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation was published in Frontiers of Psychology last year.
 
Many deniers concluded that the results of the first paper had been “scammed”, claiming “alarmists” had answered the survey pretending to be deniers and endorsed discredited conspiracies  to make deniers look bad.
 
Other claims were circulated about the authors’ motivations and alleging ways the survey was rigged to produce the published results. Many were demonstrably untrue, but were picked up and recirculated, including on the blog of Australia’s most read newspaper columnist.  Random events (eg a website being down for several hours) were presented as part of a conspiracy to prevent people discovering flaws in the survey.
 
Lewandowsky assessed these claims against testable facts and a list of characteristics of conspiratorial thinking, and found that over and over again, the commentators leaped to the conclusion of a vast campaign against them, sometimes stretching to the UWA’s ethics committee and the owners of an academic website on which Lewandowsky sometimes discusses his work.
 
A paper on “recursive fury” could hardly expect to be the end of the matter. AGW deniers complained to Frontiers of Psychology on numerous grounds. The publishers withdrew the paper, previously one of the most read on their website, while they investigated the allegations. After over a year they released the following statement:
 
In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors. 
 
The decision has been criticised by one of the paper’s reviewers, Elaine McKewon of the University of Technology, Sydney. McKewon noted that libel laws in the UK (the country where such a suit would previously have had the best chance of success) were changed on January the 1st, precisely to prevent such chilling effect on public debate.
 
“There is a fairly small and incredibly vociferous group trying to interfere with scientific process,” says Lewandowsky. “This means people are not informed of full risks of climate change. There is evidence in the literature that scientists are becoming unduly reticent to report what is happening.”
 
UWA has supported Lewandowsky and republished the paper on their own website. So far there are no signs of them being sued, and Lewandoswky says they are unconcerned.
 
Lewandowsky is unsure whether Frontiers of Psychology backed down because the cost of fighting a libel suit, even one they would win, would be too high, or if some other factor was at play.
 
None of the people who allege that scientists who disagree with the mainstream position on climate change are being censored have expressed concern about this genuine act of censorship.
 
Lewandowsky has discussed the evolution of the paper in greater depth in the talk below.

Stephan Lewandowskay: In Whose Hands the Future? from Peter Sinclair on Vimeo.

Update: Frontiers of Psychology have hit back at criticism with a new statement on why they withdrew the paper. However, far from clearing things up this has made them more murky. The new statement reads, “Frontiers did not “cave in to threats”; in fact, Frontiers received no threats.” Instead they say “As a result of its investigation, which was carried out in respect of academic, ethical and legal factors, Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. Specifically, the article categorizes the behavior of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics.”

This suggests that Frontiers‘ problem with the article was ethical rather than legal. But this directly contradicts the original statement they issued which read, “This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear,” as well as statements of Frontiers‘ lawyer.

The authors of the statements are not identified in the paper itself, and in most cases even following the references only reveals pseudonyms. The paper does not attempt to diagnose the authors of the statements, only analyzing their words for conspiracy ideation. Papers in other scientific journals have examined public statements of far more easily identifiable individuals in similar ways. 

It would be expected that if the publisher had concerns about the ethics of discussing public statements in this way they would have raised them with the authors. Lewandowsky says they did not.On his blog Lewandowsky says, “Throughout the entire period, from March 2013 until February 2014, the only concern voiced by Frontiers related to the presumed defamation risk under English libel laws.” 

The publishers have not made a statement on whether they did in fact raise these issues with the authors, but Lewandowsky has been supported by Ugo Bardi, the editor of the edition, who has resigned from his position with Frontiers of Psychology over the issue.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/conspiracy-theorists-get-paper-withdrawn-through-bogus-legal-threat

Amazon Woos Advertisers With What It Knows About Consumers

Amazon Woos Advertisers With What It Knows About Consumers

Kindle-keyboard-box

Google built its $38 billion business selling ads based on how people search and browse the web. Facebook, too, uses what it knows about its one billion users to sell targeted ads. But when it comes to what many advertisers value most — what people actually buy, or what they may want to buy soon — there may be no better data than the information in Amazon’s 152 million customer accounts.

Since last year, the world’s largest online retailer has been packaging information on what it knows about consumers so that some marketers can use it to make split-second decisions about where to buy ads online and how much to pay for them. This automated process occurs on real-time ad exchanges that sell ad impressions as a person loads a web page.

When this process began, Amazon used third-party technology, and its experiments were limited. Now it has developed an in-house platform for targeting ads to people who have visited and then left Amazon’s sites, making it likely that the company will open up these advertising services more widely over the next year.

“Today, if you’re browsing the web, you might see an Amazon advertisement based on Amazon’s data. Tomorrow, you may see an ad from Coca-Cola based on Amazon data, and it’ll run through the Amazon platform,” says Jeff Green, CEO of the Trade Desk, which helps guide spending decisions by ad agencies.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment about its advertising business, and the company does not break out its advertising revenue. But it’s clear that compared to Google and Facebook, advertising has been a relatively small and low-key business for Amazon. It brought in about $500 million of Amazon’s $48 billion in revenue in 2011, Baird & Co. senior research analyst Colin Sebastian estimates. Mostly this came from selling ads on its own websites.

But Amazon could soon generate much more than that with an advertising network that reaches onto many other sites.

For years, Amazon has put algorithms to work in order to recommend products to people who are on its sites. Now other companies are eager to find out exactly how Amazon’s knowledge about consumers can help them find the best audiences for their ads, says Kip Voytek, digital innovation director at the advertising firm MDC Partners.

Amazon would be unlikely to directly give advertisers access to its trove of information about individuals’ browsing, purchasing, and product review histories, both because of its privacy policies and a desire to keep its valuable data proprietary. Instead, Amazon would create target audiences, such as people who recently purchased digital cameras. A marketer selling digital camera accessories could then use Amazon’s technology to bid for the ability to show ads to a person in that category.

Green points out that while Google might have more overall data about consumers, Amazon’s data could be more valuable for advertisers. Amazon has “a pretty clear understanding of the things I buy. They’ve learned a lot about me. Every time I’m convinced I have another medical ailment, I go to Google. But Amazon, what they have is really about my purchase intent,” he says.

Using its data to expand its advertising business could open up new fronts of competition with Google, which also owns a real-time bidding exchange and an ad-delivery network. But Amazon might be mainly interested in using its ad technology to help the retailers that sell products on its sites and through its Kindle tablets and e-readers. Voytek put it this way: “The question that is open: is this Amazon competing with Google or is this Amazon competing with Walmart?”

Image courtesy of Flickr, kodomut

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/01/21/amazon-woos-advertisers-with-what-it-knows-about-consumers/

Skiing Through A Canadian Blizzard

Skiing Through A Canadian Blizzard

It’s been a relatively mild winter in America so far, but it seems that could all change in Canada right above Montana wants people to know that it is not mild up north at all. They just had over four feet of snow fall recently, and had professional skier Dylan Siggers show off what skiing in a true winter wonderland is like with an awesome and unique GoPro point of view. 

 

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2012/01/19/skiing-through-a-canadian-blizzard/

Undercover Cops Use Smartphones to Monitor Protests

Undercover Cops Use Smartphones to Monitor Protests

Undercover-cops-use-smartphones-to-monitor-protests-a21610816e

A network that allowed undercover police to use smartphones and tablets to monitor and communicate during protests at the Republican National Convention is giving new meaning to having “eyes on the ground.”

Police have long maintained an undercover presence at major gatherings, including political protests — not to monitor free speech, they are quick to note, but to make sure everyone is safe.

At this year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, police tried out a powerful new tool that can turn officers’ smartphones into multimedia surveillance and communication platforms. Emergency responders around the country think the use of this technology could be the wave of the future and Tampa provided what many see as a successful field test. Tools that are often featured in spy thrillers such as the Bourne Identity movies could eventually become widely available in local police stations.

In Tampa, emergency responders used specialized apps and software to turn off-the-shelf smartphones and tablets into tools for sending real-time video, voice, and data. The effort involved an interoperable network that used technology from several private companies.

That allowed undercover officers to transmit real-time video, for example, of protesters as they moved about the streets.

“The specialized applications gave law enforcement an advantage, allowing police officers to use everyday devices in a strategic and tactical way,” said Sgt. Dale Moushon, with the Intelligence Unit of the St. Petersburg Police Department, which helped bring the system to the area. Use of the network had not been publicized until now because police were wary of undermining security at the convention.

While undercover police in most protests are often easily identified by their earpieces or microphones in their sleeves, Moushon told National Journal that using cell phones allowed police to remain completely undetected. “Everyone has a phone, so officers blend in easier,” he said.

That also makes the situation safer for police officers, he said. The protests in Tampa never became as large as expected, nor did they get out of hand. But Moushon said that there were several instances where police were able to monitor potential trouble spots thanks to the network.

He also pointed to an instance in which an officer was preparing to take a picture of a suspicious person so staff could use facial-recognition software to identify the person. Instead, the person happened to pull out a document that included his identifying information that was then captured in real-time by the officer’s live video feed. “That saved us a lot of time,” Moushon said.

Law enforcement officers from Pinellas and Hillsborough counties used the next-generation broadband network to send “highly secure, encrypted voice, video and data communications, as well as an evidence-quality, permanent recording of all data collected at the event,” according to the developers of the network. In addition, the system brought together fixed-surveillance camera feeds, live video transmitted from smartphones, global-positioning system information, and traditional radio traffic.

As technology has improved, firefighters, police, and medical personnel have been looking for ways to send each other videos, pictures, and other data, in addition to voice communication.

The network in Tampa was used with special permission from the Federal Communications Commission. It was part of an effort to eventually develop a similar $7 billion National Public Safety Broadband Network for everyday use across the country.

In addition to law-enforcement surveillance and communication, a future network could allow firefighters to transmit building plans to each other, or allow paramedics to review multimedia health records.

Besides a range of law-enforcement agencies, the Florida network was developed by a group of companies that included Nokia Siemens, Reality Mobile, Raytheon and Cisco.

“Our project was a first step in an emerging era for enhanced communications and information sharing among public safety, law enforcement and other national-security officials,” Cisco Director of National Security Chris Josephs said in a statement.

Image courtesy of Alex Fitzpatrick for Mashable

This article originally published at National Journal
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/17/smartphones-monitor-protests/

Hubble Telescope Captures Fireworks in Space

Hubble Telescope Captures Fireworks in Space

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A spectacular new picture from the Hubble Space Telescope has captured a cosmic fireworks display in deep space: a geyser of gas fired off from a baby star.

The celestial display is the result of Herbig-Haro 110, a gas jet erupting from a distant star and bouncing off of a nearby dust cloud. NASA scientists likened the impressive celestial jet to the skyrockets launched each year in the United States to mark the Independence Day holiday on July 4.

“Resembling a Fourth of July skyrocket, Herbig-Haro 110 is a geyser of hot gas from a newborn star that splashes up against and ricochets off the dense core of a cloud of molecular hydrogen,” Hubble scientists said in a statement on July 3. “Although the plumes of gas look like whiffs of smoke, they are actually billions of times less dense than the smoke from a July 4 firework.”

The gas plumes are also amazingly long (they span light-years) and appear peppered with swirling eddies and round shockwaves, called “bow shocks,” that resemble the waves at the bow of a boat, researchers said. [Best Space Fireworks Photos Ever]

Herbig-Haro plumes are typically short-lived features of stars that usually last about 100,000 years. They were named after astronomers George Herbig and Guillermo Haro, who studied the objects in the 1950s.

The objects are usually formed by twin jets of super-hot gas firing off a newborn star in opposite directions. But the Herbig-Haro 110 object comes with a twist: Scientists can’t find the origin star responsible for the jet.

After a detailed study, astronomers now think that the Herbig-Haro 110 jet is created by a completely different gas plume known as Herbig-Haro 270. As that other jet bounces off a cold, dense cloud of interstellar dust, it careens back into space in a 60-degree angle and reemerges from the cloud as Herbig-Haro 110, researchers said in the statement.

“The jet shows that these energetic flows are like the erratic outbursts from a Roman candle,” Hubble scientists said.

Astronomers used the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Wide Field Camera 3on the Hubble Space Telescope to create the new view of Herbig-Haro 110. The observations were taken in 2004 and 2005 (with the ACS) and in 2011 with Wide Field Camera 3.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been beaming amazing pictures of space to Earth since its launch in 1990. The Hubble telescope is a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency.

Image courtesy of NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/03/hubble-telescope-space-fireworks/

10 Clever Cats That Learned to Open Doors

10 Clever Cats That Learned to Open Doors

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Huge Earth-Passing Asteroid an 'Entirely New Beast'

Huge Earth-Passing Asteroid an ‘Entirely New Beast’

Asteroid

A big asteroid that flew past Earth last month belongs to a new category of space rock, scientists say.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 and its moon sailed within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers) of Earth on May 31, making their closest approach to our planet for at least the next two centuries. New radar images captured by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico are revealing just how unique this binary asteroid is, researchers say.

“Asteroid QE2 is dark, red, and primitive — that is, it hasn’t been heated or melted as much as other asteroids,” Arecibo’s Ellen Howell said in a statement. “QE2 is nothing like any asteroid we’ve visited with a spacecraft, or plan to, or that we have meteorites from. It’s an entirely new beast in the menagerie of asteroids near Earth.”

The 1000-foot-wide (305 meters) Arecibo dish and NASA’s 230-foot (70 m) Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif., tracked 1998 QE2 as it approached Earth last month, then kept following the near-Earth asteroid as it receded into the depths of space.

The resulting radar images have helped researchers take 1998 QE2’s measure. The dark, cratered main asteroid is 1.9 miles (3 km) wide, and it has a 2,500-foot (750 m) moon that orbits it once every 32 hours.

“QE2’s moon is roughly one-quarter the size of the main asteroid,” Patrick Taylor, also of Arecibo, said. “Similarly, our moon is also approximately one-fourth the size of our planet.”

Studying the moon and its orbit should help scientists determine the mass of the main asteroid, which in turn will shed light on the object’s composition, researchers said.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 was discovered in August 1998 by astronomers working with MIT’s Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research program in New Mexico. The space rock completes one lap around the sun every 3.8 years.

There was never any danger of 1998 QE2 hitting Earth during last month’s flyby, scientists say. If it had hit us, the damage would have been severe; researchers think that any asteroid bigger than 0.6 miles (1 km) is capable of inflicting damage on a global scale, primarily by altering the planet’s climate.

1998 QE2 is one of roughly 10,000 near-Earth asteroids that have been spotted to date. The total population of close-flying space rocks is thought to exceed 1 million.

Arecibo’s observing campaign of 1998 QE2 came to end on Thursday (June 13), observatory officials said.

Photo via iStockphoto, iStackphotons

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/15/asteroid-new-beast/