Amateur Astronomer

Amateur astronomer discovers large asteroid that flew by Earth this week –

An orbit diagram for the near-Earth asteroid 2src2src QU6, which made a close approach to Earth on Sept. 1src, 2src2src.

An orbit diagram for the near-Earth asteroid 2020 QU6, which made a close approach to Earth on Sept. 10, 2020. (Image credit: NASA/JPL)

An amateur astronomer from Brazil discovered the large, “potentially hazardous” asteroid that safely passed by Earth this week on Thursday (Sept. 10). 

The asteroid, called 2020 QU6, measures roughly 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) wide, or large enough to cause a global catastrophe if it were to hit Earth. However, it posed no risk to our planet as it travelled past the planet at a distance of more than 20 million miles (40 million kilometers), which is more than 100 times the distance between Earth and the moon, according to a statement from the Planetary Society. 

“In the news, we hear more and more frequently about asteroid discoveries primarily because we are getting better at finding and tracking near-Earth asteroids,” Bruce Betts, chief scientist at The Planetary Society, said in the statement. “There aren’t suddenly more asteroids, we’re just getting better at seeing them.”

Related: Here’s how 2 Indian schoolgirls discovered a ‘Mars-Crosser’ asteroid 

Asteroid 2020 QU6 was discovered on Aug. 27 by amateur astronomer Leonardo Amaral at the Campo dos Amarais observatory near Sao Paulo Brazil. In 2019, Amaral received an $8,500 grant from The Planetary Society to purchase better telescope equipment that would allow him to find, track, and characterize near-Earth objects (NEOs) more effectively. 

Amaral’s location in the Southern Hemisphere also offers a unique vantage point for finding such a large asteroid, as many professional asteroid-hunting sky surveys are located in the Northern Hemisphere, according to the statement. 

While NASA and other major agencies track asteroids, the discovery of asteroid 2020 QU6 so close to its approach to Earth serves as a reminder for the need to support ground-based astronomers like Amaral. Casey Dreier, chief advocate and senior space policy adviser for The Planetary Society, also noted the importance of investing in new space-based capabilities, such as NASA’s NEO Surveillance Mission, or NEOSM, which is a space telescope designed to find and track threatening near-Earth objects. 

“This discovery reminds us that even though we’ve found most large NEOs we haven’t found all of them,” Dreier said in the statement. 

Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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Astronomer extraterrestrial

Astronomer puts odds on extraterrestrial life existing: ‘Universe teeming with life … the favored bet’ – Fox News

Despite no clear-cut evidence, mankind has wondered for eons whether we’re alone in the universe. One astronomer, however, is almost sure that extraterrestrial life exists.

In a new study, Columbia University astronomer David Kipping used the Bayesian model to determine the odds that life should exist on Earth. He found the odds are 9:1 or higher, despite scientists still not clearly understanding “how life occurred” on the planet, even if it’s widely accepted life started billions of years ago.

“The rapid emergence of life and the late evolution of humanity, in the context of the timeline of evolution, are certainly suggestive,” Kipping said in a statement. “But in this study it’s possible to actually quantify what the facts tell us.”


The Earth itself is widely believed to be approximately 4.5 billion years old.

The Bayesian statistical inference, which is used to “update the probability for a hypothesis as evidence or new information becomes available,” found that intelligent life on Earth likely formed against the odds.

The model looked at four possible answers: life is common and often develops intelligence; life is rare but often develops intelligence; life is common and rarely develops intelligence; lastly, life is rare and rarely develops intelligence.

Kipping noted the “common-life scenario is always at least nine times more likely than the rare one,” but the odds of life being intelligent are weak.

“[T]he possibility that intelligence is extremely rare and Earth ‘lucked out’ remains quite viable,” Kipping wrote in the study. “Overall, we find a weak preference, 3:2 betting odds, that intelligence rarely emerges given our late arrival.”

“If we played Earth’s history again, the emergence of intelligence is actually somewhat unlikely,” he added in the statement.


However, Kipling pointed out that the analysis “purely concerns the Earth,” and should not be applied to “potentially exoplanets being discovered.”

“The analysis can only provide statistical probabilities, but the case for a universe teeming with life emerges as the favored bet,” Kipping explained in the statement. “The search for intelligent life in worlds beyond Earth should be by no means discouraged.”

The research has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As of April 2020, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been identified, including a “one in a million” super-Earth that was recently discovered.

In early March, an astronomy student from the University of British Columbia discovered 17 new exoplanets, including one that is roughly the same size as Earth.

Known as KIC-7340288 b, the exoplanet is “small enough to be considered rocky,” at just 1.5 times the size of Earth, and is in the habitable zone of the star it orbits.

Another recently discovered exoplanet, K2-18b, is also “potentially habitable” and is just 124 light-years from Earth.


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