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Fwd = Scientists Find an 'Asteroid' is Apollo 12 Debris

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  • Frits Westra
    Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 13:43:25 -0600 From: Ron Baalke - Near Earth Object Program Organization: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2003
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      Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 13:43:25 -0600
      From: Ron Baalke - Near Earth Object Program <info@...>
      Organization: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

      http://planetary.org/html/news/articlearchive/headlines/2003/apollo12-debris.html

      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
      is
      speeding directly toward Earth at 22,000 miles per hour and NASA's
      executive
      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
      that
      we are literally encircled in junk, and the prospects for disaster in
      imaginative minds can loom large. In reality, however, the general public
      can
      rest assured about one thing: all kinds of people are keeping close watch
      over
      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
      space
      science fields.

      Virtually every object that dares venture near our planetary airspace is
      detected, analyzed, and scrutinized with multiple methods, almost always
      from
      multiple observatories. In the vast majority of cases, the objects turn
      out to
      be rather docile and non-threatening.

      A case in point is the mysterious object found in orbit around the Earth
      (about
      twice as far away as the Moon) by Hong Kong born, Canadian amateur
      astronomer
      Bill Yeung in September 2002. Known as J002E3, Yeung had reason to believe
      it
      was an authentic asteroid and a group of scientists thought it was
      interesting
      enough to take notice and investigate the object every astronomical which
      way.
      How they finally came to the almost unequivocal conclusion that it was
      actually
      the third stage of the Saturn IV booster that launched Apollo 12 in 1969
      is a
      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
      thing
      strange that may orbit our way.

      It all started that September day a little more than a year ago, while
      Yeung was
      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]------
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