Planetary Radar  

Asteroids could offer untold riches in rare and precious metals if mined, but they could also be catastrophic if a large one was to hit Earth. Adozen University of Central Florida space researchers were honored recently when planetary bodies were named after them. This brings the total number of current UCF researchers whose names are attached to asteroids to 18, along with another 12 former researchers.

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Asteroids, though often simply considered “rocks in space,” are actually composed of an array of different materials. It is important to know what asteroids are made of in order to determine the structure and formation of asteroids, and to assess any risk that an individual asteroid would pose if on a collision course with Earth. + Read More

On September 2nd, Dr. Michael Nolan presented a Solar System Ambassadors and Museum Alliance Professional Development Training Webinar titled “Twenty Years of Bennu: From Arecibo to Orbit (and Home Again).” The webinar highlighted the importance of the Arecibo Observatory for characterizing the near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. The spacecraft, currently in orbit around Bennu, is slated to pick up a sample of the asteroid next month and send the piece back to Earth by September 2023. + Read More


The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is following an asteroid approaching Earth this week and while it poses no threat, it appears to know our planet is facing a pandemic. “The small-scale topographic features such as hills and ridges on one end of asteroid 1998 OR2 are fascinating scientifically,” says Anne Virkki, head of Planetary Radar at the observatory. “But since we are all thinking about COVID-19 these features make it look like 1998 OR2 remembered to wear a mask.” The National Science Foundation facility, which is managed by the University of Central Florida, has a team of experts who monitors near-Earth asteroids. This asteroid is in a special class of near-Earth asteroids called Potentially Hazardous Objects (PHOs).

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