Asteroid Threat Discussed at HSE MIEM
How dangerous are asteroids for the Earth? What technologies can we use to protect the planet? These and other questions were discussed at a two-day seminar ‘The Solar System and the Asteroid Threat’ at HSE MIEM.
In 2011 the HSE MIEM won a Russian government grant for state support of research conducted under the supervision of leading scientists. A Research Laboratory of Space Research, technologies, systems and processes was established as part of the university, and David Dunham, a renowned American expert in space studies, became its Academic Supervisor. Under his supervision, research in the field of planetary protection from dangerous space objects is being conducted, and leading international researchers are working on projects associated with this. On September 11 and 13, 2013, American researchers, Roberto Furfaro, Professor at the University of Arizona and the head of the Space Systems Engineering Laboratory,and Mark Boslough, Professor at the University of New Mexico and a member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, spoke at a seminar ‘The Solar System and the Asteroid Threat’ organized by the laboratory.
According to David Dunham, such seminars allow the creation of a research atmosphere not only in the laboratory, but in the university as a whole. Reports by Mark Boslough and Roberto Furfaro have attracted many MIEM staff members and students interested in interplanetary studies and the problems of planetary security.
Mark Boslough spoke about recent data related to the possibility of asteroids colliding with the Earth. While big asteroids, such as the one which caused the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, are well studied (and none of them are on a trajectory of clashing with the Earth), millions of small asteroids remain undiscovered. Their size varies from 10 to 20 meters, which is comparable with the Chelyabinsk meteorite, and although these asteroids are unable to bring mass destruction and death, they can still cause considerable damage.
According to Mark Boslough, since the number of small asteroids is huge, it is difficult to create a full catalogue of them, and that’s why it’s necessary to pay more attention to developing facilities for detecting them directly as they approach the Earth. Studying these asteroids’ characteristics will allow timely detecting of the risk. In addition to that, these studies will cast light on the processes which influenced the formation of the Solar System.
On September 11, 2013, Roberto Furfaro presented information about the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission, which will deliver samples of asteroid soil to the Earth: an unmanned spacecraft will be launched in 2016, and will meet the asteroid Bennu in 2020. Professor Furfaro also spoke about ways of controlling the spacecraft near the asteroid, planning interplanetary space missions and the creation of an infrastructure for such missions.
On the second day of the seminar Roberto Furfaro spoke about application of long-distance Earth probing with spacecraft in order to monitor glaciers and agricultural processes. Complicated algorithms, developed under his supervision, allow us not only to detect the state of vegetation and relief in detail in a district seen from the satellite, but, by using an innovative method of analyzing the results, to considerably improve harvests.
Liudmila Mezentseva, HSE News Service
On Cosmonautics Day, the HSE News Service spoke with the participants of the CubSX-HSE project, which recently launched a satellite into Earth orbit. Students and staff from the HSE Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM) spoke about their project and impressions of their trip to Baikonur.
During the ‘Big Challenges’ session at the Sirius Educational Centre, five high school students, under the supervision of mentors from MIEM HSE, assembled a small artificial earth satellite. The participants of the research session were young finalists of a nationwide competition held by the educational centre. All five of the students are Olympiad champions and team members of large-scale projects.
The results of recent study conducted by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the agency’s automatic interplanetary station, show the existence of a ‘permafrost’ near the poles of the Moon with a relatively high content of water ice (up to 5% by weight). It is believed that water ice could supply a life support system for the future Russian Lunar Station and that it could also produce hydrogen-oxygen fuel for flights into deep space.
Researchers from the Higher School of Economics and Space Research Institute (Russia) have calculated the main parameters that determine space weather close to the nearest Earth-like exoplanet, Proxima Centauri b. Such parameters include solar wind, as well as galactic and solar cosmic rays. The results of the research were published in Astronomy Letters.
The big scanning antenna at the Pushchino Radio Astronomy Observatory logs almost 90 GB of data every day. The data are usually processed by the astronomers manually. Vladimir Samodurov and Alexander Gorbunov, researchers at the HSE Faculty of Business and Management, decided to relieve the scholars from this hard work and give this job to neural networks. They shared the results of their work in the paper ‘Perspectives of intellectual processing of large volumes of astronomical data using neural networks’.
Researchers from the Laboratory of Methods for Big Data Analysis (LAMBDA) at the Higher School of Economics have improved their way of analyzing ultra-high energy cosmic rays (UHECR) with the use of mobile phones. The work has been carried out as part of the CRAYFIS experiment and the results were presented at the 22nd International Conference on Computing in High Energy and Nuclear Physics.
The Higher School of Economics is welcoming its first class of students to the Faculty of Physics. The new faculty is unique in that it fosters a close relationship between education and science. At the Space Research Institute, for instance, future master’s students will create devices to study space plasma, analyse data from satellites, and learn to determine space weather.
HSE’s Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics has opened a university Microsatellite Flight Control Center. Its main goal is to offer students practical experience with small space devices that work in near-earth orbits. It was created jointly with the company Sputniks.
At the end of July, Professor Andrey Tyutnev of HSE’s Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM) became the only Russian presenter at the13th Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference organized in California under the auspices of NASA. Professor Tyutnev presented two reports prepared with colleagues from the Higher School of Economics and the Lavochkin Research and Production Association.
David W. Dunham, the famous American astronomer and NASA expert on asteroids is Academic Supervisor at the HSE International Laboratory of Space Research, Technologies, Systems and Processes. The HSE News Service asked him to tell us about working at the laboratory, what they do and what they hope to achieve.