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The Curious Tale of Asteroid Hermes (Look up this week and watch asteroid sail by!)
RedNova.com ^ | 11.3.03

Posted on 11/03/2003 2:41:03 PM PST by mhking

For the next few days backyard astronomers can see for themselves the long lost asteroid Hermes.

Science@NASA -- It's dogma now: an asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. But in 1980 when scientists Walter and Luis Alvarez first suggested the idea to a gathering at the American Association for Advancement of Sciences, their listeners were skeptical. Asteroids hitting Earth? Wiping out species? It seemed incredible.

At that very moment, unknown to the audience, an asteroid named Hermes halfway between Mars and Jupiter was beginning a long plunge toward our planet. Six months later it would pass 300,000 miles from Earth's orbit, only a little more than the distance to the Moon. Rhetorically speaking, this would have made a great point in favor of the Alvarezes. Curiously, though, no one noticed the flyby.

1980 wasn't the first time Hermes had sailed by unremarked. Hermes is a good-sized asteroid, easy to see, and a frequent visitor to Earth's neighborhood. Yet astronomers had gotten into the habit of missing it. How this came to be is a curious tale, which begins in Germany just before World War II:

On Oct. 28, 1937, astronomer Karl Reinmuth of Heidelberg noticed an odd streak of light in a picture he had just taken of the night sky. About as bright as a 9th magnitude star, it was an asteroid, close to Earth and moving fast -- so fast that he named it Hermes, the herald of Olympian gods.

On Oct. 30, 1937, Hermes glided past Earth only twice as far away as the Moon, racing across the sky at a rate of 5 degrees per hour. Nowadays only meteors and Earth-orbiting satellites move faster.

Plenty of asteroids were known in 1937, but most were plodding members of the asteroid belt far beyond Mars. Hermes was different. It visited the inner solar system. It crossed Earth's orbit. It proved that asteroids could come perilously close to our planet. And when they came, they came fast.

Reinmuth observed Hermes for five days. Then, to make a long story short, he lost it.

Hermes approaches Earth's orbit twice every 777 days. Usually our planet is far away when the orbit crossing happens, but in 1937, 1942, 1954, 1974 and 1986, Hermes came harrowingly close to Earth itself. We know about most of these encounters only because Lowell Observatory astronomer Brian Skiff re-discovered Hermes… on Oct. 15, 2003.

Astronomers around the world have been tracking it carefully ever since. Orbit-specialists Steve Chesley and Paul Chodas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have used the new observations to trace Hermes' path backwards in time, and so they identified all the unnoticed flybys.

"It's a little unnerving," says Chodas. "Hermes has sailed by Earth so many times and we didn't even know it."

"Hermes' orbit is the most chaotic of all near-Earth asteroids," he adds. This is because the asteroid is so often tugged by Earth's gravity. Hermes has occasional close encounters with Venus, too. In 1954 the asteroid flew by both planets.

"That was a real orbit scrambler," Chodas says. Frequent encounters with Earth and Venus make it hard to forecast Hermes' path much more than a century in advance. The good news is that "Hermes won't approach Earth any closer than about 0.02 AU within the next hundred years." We're safe for now.

Using the JPL ephemeris, we can look back and figure out what happened in 1937 when the asteroid was lost. With hindsight, it's understandable:

Reinmuth first spotted Hermes approaching Earth from the direction of the asteroid belt. At first it was easy to see because the asteroid's sunlit side was facing Earth. Speedy Hermes soon crossed Earth's orbit, however, and began turning its night side toward us.

Asteroids are nearly as dark as charcoal, and their night sides are very dim. By Nov. 3rd, six days after its discovery, the asteroid had faded from 9th to 21st magnitude, a factor of 60,000. "Hermes was also heading into the sun's glare, which only made matters worse," notes Chodas. Hermes literally vanished.

No one seemed to care, not much. In 1937, World War II was about to begin in Europe, so people had a lot on their minds. Hermes failed to impress.

Says Chodas: "Astronomers of the day were somewhat biased, perhaps. They had convinced themselves that collisions were too rare to consider. Hermes didn't change their opinion because catastrophism was not in vogue."

It's in vogue now--largely because of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9), an object discovered by people hunting for Hermes. Found in 1993 by Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy, SL9 hit Jupiter in July 1994 with much of the world watching on CNN.

Long before the collision, SL9 had been torn apart by Jupiter's powerful tides. The largest fragments, coincidentally about the same size as asteroid Hermes, exploded with such force when they struck that dark clouds formed in Jupiter's atmosphere as large as Earth itself.

A message from Jupiter: Catastrophes happen.

"Gene always felt that Hermes should have done more to excite the world than it did at the time" recalls David Levy. "Indeed, he and his wife Carolyn were always hoping to find it."

Shoemaker was a visionary who realized long before most others did that asteroids and comets posed an ongoing threat to Earth. In the late 1970's he and a few colleagues began to hunt for near-Earth objects using an 18-inch telescope at the Palomar Observatory.

For a long while it was the only such survey on Earth. They discovered dozens of asteroids and comets, including SL9 -- but not Hermes. "When Hermes passed by Earth in 1986 (an encounter identified post-facto by Chodas) it should have been an easy target for us," notes Levy. "But the telescope was down for repairs." Shoemaker died in 1997 not knowing how close he came.

Now backyard astronomers around the world can do something Gene Shoemaker never did -- see Hermes.

Hermes is fast approaching Earth, and on Nov. 4th it will pass by our planet 18 times farther away than the moon. Already the asteroid is about as bright as a 13th magnitude star -- an easy target for 8-inch telescopes equipped with CCD cameras. Where should you point your 'scope? Consult the JPL Ephemeris for details.

In recent days a group of NASA-supported astronomers led by Jean-Luc Margot of UCLA have pinged the asteroid with radar pulses from the giant Arecibo antenna in Puerto Rico. Hermes, it turns out, is a double asteroid -- two space rocks orbiting one another, each about 400 meters across.

No one knows how Hermes came to be this way. Margot and colleagues hope to learn more when the asteroid passes by on Nov. 4th as they continue their observations using both Arecibo and NASA's Goldstone radar.

Now that Hermes has our attention, it might teach us a few things after all.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: archaeology; asteroid; flyby; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; nearmiss

Hermes in October 2003


Hermes orbit which brings it into the inner Solar System every 777 days

1 posted on 11/03/2003 2:41:04 PM PST by mhking
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To: Howlin; Ed_NYC; MonroeDNA; widgysoft; Springman; Timesink; dubyaismypresident; Grani; coug97; ...
Just damn.

If you want on the new list, FReepmail me. This IS a high-volume PING list...

2 posted on 11/03/2003 2:41:28 PM PST by mhking
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To: mhking
I read a good book recently that touched on how many comets may be/are whizzing around the outer solar system. Not that anyone should prepare. If one of these ever connects, I doubt we'll need to worry about the aftermath.
3 posted on 11/03/2003 3:01:07 PM PST by somemoreequalthanothers
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To: mhking
Why worry about Earth...look how close it's orbit will pass to Mars.
4 posted on 11/03/2003 4:11:05 PM PST by ETERNAL WARMING
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To: ETERNAL WARMING
We should be able to see it with the naked eye, shouldn't we? Aren't we getting ready for the meteorite showers?
5 posted on 11/03/2003 4:30:52 PM PST by dixie sass (GOD bless America)
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To: mhking
Hermes is about 1 km across. The Chicxulub object was about 10 km across.

Hermes is much too small to pasteurize the planet, but could still really ruin somone's whole week...
6 posted on 11/03/2003 4:43:08 PM PST by null and void
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To: RadioAstronomer
Ping, PONG!!!
7 posted on 11/03/2003 7:41:10 PM PST by Ogmios (Since when is 66 senate votes for judicial confirmations constitutional?)
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To: null and void
Hermes orbit which brings it into the inner Solar System every 777 days

Interesting number.

8 posted on 12/07/2003 12:23:12 AM PST by Indie (We were warned. My people perish for lack of knowledge.)
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To: Indie; Quix
Even more interesting number now knowing that Hermes is a binary.
9 posted on 12/07/2003 12:28:37 AM PST by Indie (We were warned. My people perish for lack of knowledge.)
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To: null and void
Hermes is much too small to pasteurize the planet, but could still really ruin somone's whole week...

Remember, it's actually two asteroids approximately 400 meters in diameter each. Depending on the angle of impact, if both struck two different regions of this planet, or if both struck America, it would kill literally millions upon million of people, and I have no doubt, it would be a climate changing event for this planet, for some years to follow.....

10 posted on 12/07/2003 12:49:34 AM PST by Joe Hadenuf (I failed anger management class, they decided to give me a passing grade anyway)
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To: Joe Hadenuf
Meteor Crater, just east of Flagstaff AZ is really worth a visit. Quite impressive what an asteroid impact can do.
11 posted on 12/07/2003 1:05:26 AM PST by Travis McGee (----- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com -----)
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To: Joe Hadenuf
It would also depend on the composition of the "rocks". Iron cored they would slam but otherwise they could probably disintegrate and/or explode in the atmosphere like the one in siberia causeing massive damage to a probably unpopulated forest.
12 posted on 12/07/2003 1:11:01 AM PST by Dosa26
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To: ETERNAL WARMING
Why worry about Earth...look how close it's orbit will pass to Mars

Cause if it hits Mars I can enjoy the show if it hit's Earth, wellllllll........
13 posted on 12/07/2003 1:13:22 AM PST by Kozak (Anti Shahada: " There is no God named Allah, and Muhammed is his False Prophet")
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To: Kozak
Depends on where...
14 posted on 12/07/2003 9:11:33 AM PST by null and void (The meek shall inherit the Earth. The Stars belong to the bold.)
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To: mhking
Shoemaker died in 1997 not knowing how close he came.

Story of my life.

I always die before knowing how close I came.

15 posted on 12/07/2003 9:15:09 AM PST by Lazamataz (PROUDLY POSTING WITHOUT READING THE ARTICLE SINCE 1999!)
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To: Kozak
Cause if it hits Mars I can enjoy the show if it hit's Earth, wellllllll........

.........you'll still enjoy the show.

16 posted on 12/07/2003 9:16:12 AM PST by Lazamataz (PROUDLY POSTING WITHOUT READING THE ARTICLE SINCE 1999!)
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To: mhking
We had an asteroid when I was a kid - name was Benny. He would "sit" and "roll over" but he kept on pooping in the living room and my Dad gave him away.
17 posted on 12/07/2003 9:41:47 AM PST by sandydipper (Never quit - never surrender!)
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To: Lazamataz
I always die before knowing how close I came.

There's a play on words in there somewhere but I ain't touching it.

I knew a girl like that once, she would always pass out right at the end.
18 posted on 12/07/2003 9:54:04 AM PST by tet68
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To: tet68
I knew a girl like that once, she would always pass out right at the end.

Boy, you must have really knocked the bottom out of that.

19 posted on 12/07/2003 9:56:41 AM PST by Lazamataz (PROUDLY POSTING WITHOUT READING THE ARTICLE SINCE 1999!)
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To: Dosa26
You bet.
20 posted on 12/07/2003 10:02:01 AM PST by Joe Hadenuf (I failed anger management class, they decided to give me a passing grade anyway)
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To: Lazamataz
la petit mort
21 posted on 12/07/2003 10:12:14 AM PST by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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To: Lazamataz
.........you'll still enjoy the show.

Well maybe if it hits here 21:27:00N 39:49:00E

(;-}
22 posted on 12/07/2003 10:49:58 AM PST by Kozak (Anti Shahada: " There is no God named Allah, and Muhammed is his False Prophet")
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To: Lazamataz
I found out later there is a term for what happened to her
it's called "Le Petit Mort".


She used to tell me, "Oooooo,kill me slowly.....inch by inch."

Is that too much information?

She had VERY prehensile toes too.

Maybe THAT is too much information!

Why, I remember a time when she............

No, that IS too much information.
23 posted on 12/07/2003 10:51:03 AM PST by tet68
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To: Lazamataz
Alas, I digress, ahem, asteroids, yes.
24 posted on 12/07/2003 10:52:58 AM PST by tet68
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To: tet68
Alas, I digress, ahem, asteroids, yes.


25 posted on 12/07/2003 12:23:18 PM PST by Lazamataz (PROUDLY POSTING WITHOUT READING THE ARTICLE SINCE 1999!)
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To: tet68
She used to tell me, "Oooooo,kill me slowly.....inch by inch." Is that too much information?

Owning a video is would be too little information.

This is one of those "You gotta be there" moments.

26 posted on 12/07/2003 12:24:35 PM PST by Lazamataz (PROUDLY POSTING WITHOUT READING THE ARTICLE SINCE 1999!)
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To: Indie
Pretty odd sort of meteor, it seems to me. Perhaps our handling of it is even more odd. Therefore what is probably nothing but it's just odd.
27 posted on 12/07/2003 1:34:52 PM PST by Quix (Choose this day whom U will serve: Shrillery & demonic goons or The King of Kings and Lord of Lords)
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To: somemoreequalthanothers
Title please, if avilable.
28 posted on 12/07/2003 1:48:08 PM PST by bert (Don't Panic!)
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To: bert
"The Mars Mystery" -Graham Hancock, Three Rivers Press 1998
29 posted on 12/07/2003 2:39:01 PM PST by somemoreequalthanothers
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Just adding this to the GGG catalog, not sending a general distribution.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest
-- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

30 posted on 05/19/2005 8:55:55 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (FR profiled updated Tuesday, May 10, 2005. Fewer graphics, faster loading.)
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Mystery Asteroid, Hermes, May Have a Partner
Space.com (Yahoo!) | 10/21/2003 | Robert Roy Britt
Posted on 10/23/2003 4:58:58 PM EDT by Pyro7480
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1006824/posts


31 posted on 06/12/2007 11:11:56 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Time heals all wounds, particularly when they're not yours. Profile updated June 8, 2007.)
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from 2003
 
Catastrophism
 
· join · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post new topic ·
 

32 posted on 06/12/2007 11:12:23 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Time heals all wounds, particularly when they're not yours. Profile updated June 8, 2007.)
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