Asteroid edition? Asteroid edition!
1. We Aren't All Doomed in 2036!
An 325 meter diameter asteroid named Apophis will swing close by Earth in April 2029. Astronomers are 100% sure it won't hit us then (so you should be, too). But what they weren't sure of was if it would hit us on its second pass in 2036.
Let that sink in for a moment. A 325 meter wide space rock had a chance of hitting us in 2036. The impact would've been unimaginably bigger than any nuclear bomb ever set off here on Earth.
But yay! Good news! With further study, NASA has confirmed that Apophis WILL NOT HIT EARTH in 2036. Thanks, NASA, for being on top of this and looking out for our planet. Seriously. And especially thanks for giving us super-advanced notice, so us science educators can begin to calm the masses 23 years in advance: Apophis isn't going to be the apocalypse. Repeat: Apophis isn't going to be the apocalypse.
Looks like we don't have to worry about asteroids getting to close. Well, unless we decide to drag one here ourselves. But that'd be crazy, wouldn't it?
2. A Moon For Our Moon
The Keck Institute for Space Studies says that NASA is contemplating the logistics of pulling an asteroid into orbit around our moon.
They actually aren't nervous at all about it getting out of control. We have a good understanding of gravity and orbits now, so this wouldn't be too scary. The cost wouldn't be much more than the cost of sending Curiosity to Mars, and would provide us easy access to explore an asteroid with robots and maybe even humans. This could possibly even allow us to begin mining asteroids in the 2020's.
We'd have to robotically drag it here, of course. Safely, too, so we don't accidentally send it in some new wonky direction. But hey, I wouldn't put anything past NASA. If they actually manage to get the funding support, and even often when they don't, they really do accomplish whatever they set their minds to.
But back to asteroids naturally flying at us...
3. We've Got Another Near Miss Heading Our Way Next Month
The day after Valentine's Day, asteroid 2012 DA14 will swing within 18,000 miles of Earth, just missing us as it heads onwards through the solar system.
The asteroid is about 45 meters across, and won't be easily visible to anyone without a telescope. It's these sort of asteroids that blow my mind. How often in our past have asteroids like this just sailed on by, with none the wiser? Seriously. For all our panic about getting hit by space rocks, we sure do get missed by plenty.
Though, personally, it's comforting to know someone's keeping track of these nowadays, just in case something heads our way one day and doesn't have a track that misses us.
Yeah. Uh...let's keep the space programs going, please.