Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 13:43:25 -0600
From: Ron Baalke - Near Earth Object Program <info@...
Organization: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Scientists Find an 'Asteroid' is Apollo 12 Debris
Anatomy of an Asteroid Investigation
By A.J.S. Rayl
The Planetary Society
30 October 2003
Heaven and Earth are about to collide . . . An asteroid the size of Texas
speeding directly toward Earth at 22,000 miles per hour and NASA's
director has only one option -- to send up a crew to destroy the asteroid
. . .
It was only a movie. But Armageddon and other films of
its ilk back in the late 1990s presented an image of
asteroid fear and injected it into a public consciousness
that ebbs and flows today.
The more our ability to 'see' in space has improved and
the more missions we send into space, the more we know
there are all kinds of things flying around out there
that could someday, somehow, somewhere drop in on Earth.
That knowledge -- along with evidence of past meteor and
asteroid impacts on Earth and other planets, and those
thought-provoking Hollywood movies - has fueled public
intrigue and concern about anything out of the ordinary
that might be orbiting our world.
Just a glance at a map showing the space debris around our planet reveals
we are literally encircled in junk, and the prospects for disaster in
imaginative minds can loom large. In reality, however, the general public
rest assured about one thing: all kinds of people are keeping close watch
the heavens above.
Every few weeks, automated asteroid surveys scan the skies
looking for any errant space rocks or anything else that's
out of the ordinary and moves. Nothing of any interest, no
matter what it might ultimately turn out to be -- an
asteroid or a piece of space junk, or even an
extraterrestrial spacecraft -- is going to get by this
global group of astronomers and researchers who represent all variety of
Virtually every object that dares venture near our planetary airspace is
detected, analyzed, and scrutinized with multiple methods, almost always
multiple observatories. In the vast majority of cases, the objects turn
be rather docile and non-threatening.
A case in point is the mysterious object found in orbit around the Earth
twice as far away as the Moon) by Hong Kong born, Canadian amateur
Bill Yeung in September 2002. Known as J002E3, Yeung had reason to believe
was an authentic asteroid and a group of scientists thought it was
enough to take notice and investigate the object every astronomical which
How they finally came to the almost unequivocal conclusion that it was
the third stage of the Saturn IV booster that launched Apollo 12 in 1969
tale that unfolds something like a modern day detective story, illustrating
along the way the kind of time and effort that go into identifying any
strange that may orbit our way.
It all started that September day a little more than a year ago, while
reviewing images of the constellation Pisces taken at the Desert Wanderer
Observatory in El Centro, California. Suddenly, he detected a "relatively
bright, fast-mover," and thought it might be a near Earth asteroid.
--[snipped - FULL story at above URL]------