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The Economistfrom The Economist

Fool's platinum?

Asteroid mining: Fool's platinum? It Isn't a gold rush quite yet, but the launch of a second asteroid-mining venture in a year suggests that the allure of extra-terrestrial prospecting may be as hard to resist for some as the Klondike was.

Asteroids are rocky, airless worlds that orbit our sun, but are too small to be called planets. Tens of thousands of these "minor planets" are gathered in the main asteroid belt, a vast doughnut-shaped ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

WISE mission finds lost asteroid family members between Mars and Jupiter by Chillymanjaro on May 30, 2013 Millions of infrared snapshots from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have led to a discovery of new and improved asteroid family members in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. NEOWISE all-sky survey identified 28 new asteroid families. The next step for the team is to learn more about the original parent bodies that spawned the families.

A real shooting star! Mira (MY-rah) is a star that scientists have studied for 400 years. But NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer telescope captured a very surprising image of Mira. It showed for the first time that Mira has a long tail of dust and gas—13 light-years long! That is 20,000 times longer than the average distance from the Sun to Pluto!

More shots of P/2013 P5 is an asteroid with six comet-like tails (Image: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt) Astronomers spot bizarre six-tailed asteroid By David Szondy November 12, 2013


Washington Company Is Working to Mine Asteroids

Plans for a robotic mining mission to the asteroid belt is not new. As millions of moviegoers know, resource extraction efforts ended in tears for the miners in Mr. Cameron’s space epic “Avatar.” Those miners sought something called unobtanium, whatever that was, on a faraway moon.

Will we see it coming? A LACK of cash could end the only survey dedicated to searching the southern skies for Earth-grazing comets and asteroids creating a blind spot in our global view of objects that could cause significant devastation should they hit Earth.

The first official British European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake is being trained for a mission to land on an asteroid.


Asteroid’s Impact Still Central to Dinosaurs’ Extinction

new study, old info