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Study finds most anti-vaxx Facebook pages come from just two organisations

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The anti-vaxx movement is against childhood vaccination despite scientific evidence showing it provides long-term protection against infectious diseases. (Getty Images/Science Photo Library)

The majority of anti-vaccination Facebook pages appear to originate from just two US-based organisations.

A report from George Washington University suggests the World Mercury Project and Stop Mandatory Vaccinations are behind much of the misinformation spread on the social network.

The latter bought 54% of the anti-vaccine adverts displayed on Facebook through the duration of the study, according to the Guardian.

Both organisations are headed by anti-vaccination activists – Robert F Kennedy Jr and Larry Cook – who have criticised the use of child vaccinations in the US.

‘These two individuals were generating the majority of the content,’ said David Broniatowski, a professor of engineering at George Washington University and one of the authors of the report.

The report was published in the journal Vaccine where the researchers explained that they used the keyword ‘vaccine’ to search Ad Archive on December 13, 2018 and again on February 22, 2019.

‘We exported data for 505 advertisements. A team of annotators sorted advertisements by content: pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine, not relevant,’ the researchers wrote.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 10, 2019 the Facebook logo is seen on a computer in this photo illustration in Washington, DC. - Digital services company Cognizant on October 31, 2019 said it will stop its work to help filter vile content posted at online venues such as Facebook.The shift was portrayed by Cognizant as part of a plan by the New Jersey-based company to focus on services related to data, digital Engineering, cloud, and the internet-of-things. (Photo by Alastair Pike / AFP) (Photo by ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook is being used to spread misinformation about vaccinations (AFP)

MORE: I was an anti-vaxxer and my children were the ones who suffered

And the results show that most of the noise is coming from the aforementioned individuals.

‘A small set of anti-vaccine advertisement buyers have leveraged Facebook advertisements to reach targeted audiences,’ the researchers concluded.

‘By deeming all vaccine-related content an issue of “national importance,” Facebook has further the politicized vaccines. The implementation of a blanket disclosure policy also limits which ads can successfully run on Facebook. Improving transparency and limiting misinformation should not be separate goals.’

The anti-vaccine movement believes that vaccinating children causes more harm than good and in some cases are completely refusing to let their children be vaccinated with, for example, the MMR vaccine.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed the anti-vaxx movement as one of the top 10 global health threats of 2019.

Over here in the UK, the NHS has slammed the movement.

FILE - This May 15, 2019 file photo shows a vial of a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at a clinic in Vashon Island, Wash. The World Health Organization says there has been a ???dramatic resurgence??? of measles in Europe, with nearly 90,000 people sickened by the virus in the first half of 2019. In a new report issued Thursday, Aug. 29 the U.N. health agency said the number of measles cases from January to June this year is double the number reported for the same period in 2018. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

A vial of a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at a clinic (AP)

Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said health services will make it easier for parents to get their children vaccinated over the coming year but warned against ‘toxic’ pseudoscience after the WHO announced the UK is no longer measles-free.

Last month it emerged the vaccination rate for infants getting their first MMR jab has fallen for the fifth consecutive year, leaving one in ten children at risk.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Stevens said: ‘Crucially, this rate is below the 95 per cent threshold where a critical mass of people is protected, creating a ‘herd immunity’ that keeps the whole population safe.’

He said the figure matters because the lives of children who cannot be vaccinated due to treatments like chemotherapy depend on other kids having had the jab to keep measles at bay.

The vaccine is not only safe but ‘essential’, he added.



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Trends Driving the Loyalty Marketing Industry

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Do you know who a loyal customer is? It’s those who circle back to your brand again and again and again. Loyalty marketing is when you give customers a strong reason to come back to you.

These customers never have enough of the different offers you put out, actively engaging with the brand on all fronts.

They trust the product and service and play a significant role in getting the word out and making it successful.

The customer may be a small group, but they make a sizeable impact on your business. They spend more on your products and are less likely to ask for returns, as well.

New trends are changing the face of the industry. If businesses expect to meet these changing needs, then they need to monitor industry trends and statistics for changes that may influence customer loyalty.

Consumers Expect Personalization

Customers know you’re gathering their data. Even without the EU regulations that stick it out on their faces, customers were always looped to the fact that the sites they’re visiting are collecting and using data.

The good news is they don’t mind. At least, most of your customers won’t mind.

People don’t have qualms about data IF that data is put to good use. Research reveals personalization and customer satisfaction are inextricably tied together. Nearly 80% of customers are satisfied with loyalty programs that offer a high level of customization. For them, personalization means the rewards will be attuned to their likes and dislikes.

Realizing its importance, more and more brands online are adding personalization as part of their overall campaigns.

Doing so has the effect of keeping customers engaged. There’s a lot of dissatisfaction in the air partly due to the spray and pray approach spearheaded by a lot of marketers. Many customers feel this is a danger to their security issues. With personalization, people don’t get irrelevant offers.

If you haven’t already, considering offering personalized rewards to your loyal customers.

Partnerships have increased

Brand partnerships are forming the centerpiece of the strategy for many brands. Brands are contacting and forging relationships with partners.

The contact helps you beat the competition out of the water.

Partnerships can make existing loyalty programs better. And it provides your customers with a lot of options to choose from.

Wyndham Rewards— a excellent loyalty program by itself partnered with Caesar’s entertainment to form the Total Rewards Program—something gigantically better. Together the combined program provides access to a lot of things. Travel experiences, discounts on hospitality experiences, and discounts on hospitality experiences and entertainment experiences.

By partnering, they brought a world of good that customers on each end of the spectrum can have access to.

People Love Socially Responsible Brands

Millennial minds are shifting in ways never seen before in history. A recent study found that 81 percent of millennials expect companies to forget their mad obsession with profits and become involved with their communities.

Ethically sourced products or green products aren’t a trend that would go away soon. Especially so, as the problems caused by greenhouse gas emissions lampoon the foreseeable future. Millennials are aware of it.

Knowing Millennials are aware of the ethically sourced products is evident in the fact that 66 percent of consumers will pay more for products from companies that are making a changing environmentally or socially.

This could very well form a core part of your loyalty programs and your branding.

Emotional Loyalty Is Key

Emotions are what drive decision making. The same holds true for loyalty.

By understanding emotions you’re able to elicit out of your customer,s you’ll be able to get loyalty from them.

A significant outcome of loyalty programs we wish to happen is getting buyers to buy again and again from us.

Motista’s research found that customers who connected emotionally with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value. With CLV, you get to know how much revenue you can generate from that one customer over the course of the entire period he remains a customer.

Memorable events help forge an emotional bond with buyers becomes easy. They would turn into repeat customers. This helps have a higher CLV.

Meaning more revenue for you.

Customer Service Is Going To Take Center Stage

Especially since loyalty marketing is so important.

ThinkJar’s research shows that 67% of customer churn can be prevented if the issue is addressed in the first interaction. A good customer service team can help you from losing customers and reducing churn.

Not to mention the incremental impact it will have on customer loyalty.

For instance, I recently started using the Beato blood glucose monitor. Despite all the nicely laid out instructions, I was having trouble eking out one reading with the device.

Countless drops of blood and redundant slides later, I’d thrown in the towel and was mulling a return. It was then my phone beeped with a message and then a call from the support team who saw my troubles and reached out with a helping hand.

Minutes later, I was successfully able to get my first reading.

AI And Chatbots Are Improving Customer Engagement

Chatbots are one of the most revolutionary bits of technology we’ve seen so far in 2018-2019.

Plenty of companies are jumping on board. The benefits are worth the investment in time and money.

And if the trend continues, chatbots may hold out their own on the customer engagement front.

In fact, by 2020,  85 percent of customer relationships with enterprises will happen without interacting with a human. This comes with a caveat. Chatbots can mimic the entire range of human communication. But, you can’t just do away with a human. Not yet.

Their best applications are in templated responses that deal with everyday common issues. Things like—How to place an order? How to get a refund? How to talk to a human and so on.

Chatbots primary function is to free up human agents to apply their minds to tasking questions. You can even make your chatbot converse and enhance the experience. And Probably get people to sign up for your loyalty marketing program.

What’s Ahead

As a brand, you know the value of loyal customers and what they mean for your business. If you want to stay on the growth trajectory build loyalty.

It’s a field that sees new trends with each passing year. These trends reflect the changes you need to incorporate to make your program stand out, to add real value.

You have seen the stats and the examples. What are you waiting for?

With a loyalty program, you can identify loyal customers and do everything they like to retain them. Investment on this front means you get tons more referrals in the long term, positive reviews and higher customer satisfaction.

The post Trends Driving the Loyalty Marketing Industry appeared first on ReadWrite.



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WWII Aircraft Radio Roars to Life: What it Takes to Restore a Piece of History

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I’ve been told all my life about old-timey Army/Navy surplus stores where you could buy buckets of FT-243 crystals, radio gear, gas masks, and even a Jeep boxed-up in a big wooden crate. Sadly this is no longer the case. Today surplus stores only have contemporary Chinese-made boots, camping gear, and flashlights. They are bitterly disappointing except for one surplus store that I found while on vacation in the Adirondacks: Patriot of Lake George.

There I found a unicorn of historical significance; an un-modified-since-WW2 surplus CBY-46104 receiver with dynamotor. The date of manufacture was early-war, February 1942. This thing was preserved as good as the day it was removed from its F4F Hellcat. No ham has ever laid a soldering iron or a drill bit to it. Could this unit have seen some action in the south Pacific? Imagine the stories it could tell!

My unconventional restoration of this radio followed strict rules so as to minimize the evidence of repair both inside and out yet make this radio perform again as though it came fresh off the assembly line. Let’s see how I did.

A Flavor of Radio for Every Need

The list of radio systems installed into WW2 aircraft goes on and on, even more so for special aircraft like night fighters which depended entirely on radio navigation and radar systems to fly their missions and jamming aircraft who’s purpose was to hide fleets of bombing aircraft or invasions of coastal territories. There were different systems for each specialized task:

An early B-29 radio installation showing a menagerie of radio gear. More gear would be installed as the war dragged on. Bottom line is, they used lots of radio equipment for a multitude of purposes.  A very busy radio room indeed!
  • Long range radio systems to communicate back to base, typically consisting of an ART-13 transmitter and a BC-348 receiver.
  • Short-range radio systems designed for aircraft-to-aircraft communication, known as command sets subdivided into a multitude of bands.
  • Air to ground radio communication equipment.
  • Radar beacons to identify the aircraft as a friendly (identify friend or foe, or IFF).
  • Radio navigation receivers of various types from
    • radio direction finders,
    • glide slope receivers for landing purposes, and
    • TDOA radio navigation systems akin to modern GPS (except that you had to manually measure the time difference of arrival with an oscilloscope and line it up on special charts), such as GEE.
  • Radar systems of various types.
  • Electronic warfare receivers to detect enemy radar signals.

Part of the ARC-5 Radio Equipment

Command set installation in a B-25H, showing location of command set equipment (left) and the control heads (right) that are located so as to be available to the pilot for direct radio control.

Somewhere in this menagerie of radio systems, you would find a CBY-46104 receiver. This receiver is part of a series of radio gear known as ARC-5 command sets, which describes an entire class of WW2 transmitting and receiving equipment for aircraft-to-aircraft communication. This class of equipment includes separate transmitters and receivers that can be controlled remotely by the pilots through a remote control head mounted somewhere in the flight deck.

These radios were designed in the mid 1930’s. Transmitters utilize a MOPA (Master Oscillator Power Amplifier) architecture supporting AM phone and CW (aka Morse code) transmission.  Receivers use a single-conversion heterodyne architecture similar to that of big wood console radios of the era. Octal tubes were used as the active devices and the operational frequencies did not exceed 20 MHz, which was considered a high frequency for the mid 1930’s.

This radio gear was light-weight for WW2 standards, the CBY-46104 weighs only 6 lbs and is made entirely from aluminum. It is a carefully balanced chassis/radio design for weight minimization (these were installed in aircraft after all) while also remaining rugged and able to provide stable operation across MIL-SPEC temperature ranges and intense vibration.

The CBY-46104 covers 1.5-3 Mc either AM or CW (it can also tune in SSB in CW mode), made by the Aircraft Radio Corporation of Boonton N.J. in February 1942 with SN# 1777. The contract for this run was #74812 dated June 29, 1940, demonstrating the ramp-up in war materiel purchasing/production in advance of Pearl Harbor. In other words, they were planning ahead for this conflict (an interesting book on this topic, how war production in the US was set up in advance by an executive from General Motors who established GM’s global supply chain in the 20’s and 30’s).

Rules of Engagement for the Restoration

To preserve this historic treasure my rules of restoration were:

  • No replacement of any components whatsoever.
  • If a capacitor failed, then it must be re-stuffed.
  • Unit must be made fully operational to original specification.
  • Unit must run off of its dynamotor, as it was intended.
  • No holes can be drilled, either on the chassis or on the plug-in.
  • Rear power connector must stay as-is.
  • No chassis modifications whatsoever.

These were not easy rules to follow because, as we know, the first step to antique radio restoration is to replace all of the paper and electrolytic capacitors, saving a lot of headache and time.

Initial Assessment

Instead of replacing the caps I opted to do a cursory check of the caps and try powering the unit up for an assessment. I tested the electrolytic and paper caps with a Fluke DVM in resistance mode for obvious shorts or low impedance. All caps were open-circuit as far as my DVM was concerned (unfortunately DVM’s are not sensitive enough for a proper leakage test, more on this later).

Next I had to locate documentation. Fortunately, it is easy to find documentation for WW2 radio gear because it was ubiquitous in the late 40’s through the early 70’s in amateur radio stations across the world (here is a PDF link to the manual for all or most ARC-5 gear). A typical practice of the post-WW2 era was for the Elmer hams to gift an ARC-5 receiver to a young ham working to earn their license. With such a receiver the young ham would be able to tune in radio traffic from all over the world and practice listening to Morse code (CW) transmissions.

It is not easy hooking-up military surplus radios because they typically use multi-pin multi-use connectors for power and other controls. From the documentation I figured out what had to plug into the multi-pin connector on the back; +28 VDC, an external CW/AM toggle switch, RF gain control pot, 600 ohm speaker (I used an 8 ohm speaker and impedance matching transformer).

But one might ask, “with 28VDC input, how do we get high voltage for the vacuum tube plates?”  Here is how they did it in WW2: This unit has what is known as a Dynamotor. High voltage was generated from the Dynamotor. Everything from receivers to transmitters that ran on low voltage DC busses used dynamotors to generate the 200-1000V, or more, needed for operation.




Dynamotors are motor-generators; in my case one end is a spinning motor at 28VDC motor and the other end is a 250VDC generator. Rather than having two motors with two shafts tied together (larger units on ships actually used such configurations) this motor is built into one compact unit with two armatures and two sets of brushes. 28VDC in, 250VDC out all the while spinning like a whirly-bird.

I removed the bells (end caps) from both sides of the motor. I applied 28V and, carefully with my finger, pushed the armature on the 28V side of the dynamotor to coax it into operation. It spun up like a 1950’s jet engine! Whrrrrrrrrrrr…..

After about 30 seconds the Whrrr sounded slightly bogged down, loaded down actually, by the vacuum tubes warming up and drawing current from the 250VDC output of the dynamotor. Then noise came out of the speaker. I hooked up my 20m dipole and to my amazement I was tuning in AM broadcast stations at around 1500 Kc. There was a lot of noise coming through the speaker likely due to failed decoupling caps that would otherwise quiet the dynamotor’s hum. The receiver was not too sensitive, and tuning was jammed up at the higher frequency ranges on the dial. It was at this point that I shut it down, this radio wanted to work and all I had to do now was clean her up and fix a few things.

Servicing Capacitors and Resistors

First order of business was to accurately test the capacitors because it was obvious that some were not functioning to spec. It is tough to test capacitors correctly, it requires multiple tests to troubleshoot for bad capacitors:

  • Test with a DVM in ohm setting.
    • Testing capacitors with a DVM in resistance mode will show which are short-circuited but it will not reveal the leaking capacitors that are only leaking ever so slightly (e.g. have extremely high DC impedance) at high voltages. DVM testing only reveals the short-circuited caps, this is a necessary first step.
  • Test for specified value.
    • A capacitor must operate to its specified value so it is good to test to see if the cap is functioning as a cap. This test will show if a cap is functioning as a cap and as specified. Unfortunately some leaky capacitors will measure to their specified value, so this test is not definitive.
  • Electrostatic Resistance (ESR).
    • In modern low-voltage electronics the key metric to capacitor goodness is ESR. This test will confirm that a capacitor is presenting a low impedance to a high frequency signal. In other words, how much series DC resistance does a capacitor present when it is measured at a relatively high frequency. Ideally, capacitors should present no resistance whatsoever, but practical capacitors do present some low resistance and bad capacitors present a lot more than some resistance.
    • With that said, ESR testing is useful for testing the electrolytic power supply capacitors in tube equipment.
  • Leakage.
    • For high voltage capacitors, the key metric of goodness is leakage. How much current leaks through an old capacitor? If small amounts of current (on the order of single-digit uA) leak through then that capacitor is bad. A leaky cap will act like a high value resistor, in the many-multi-mega ohm range thereby reverse-biasing the grids of tubes or discharging itself causing it to not function like a capacitor at all.  Leakage testing is absolutely critical and must be done for each and every cap.

Given all of that, the keys to troubleshooting tube equipment are to test the capacitance of each cap to verify that it is functioning and test the leakage to make sure it is not leaking current between circuits.

To check for value and leakage with one test device you must resurrect an old piece of test gear known as the capacitor checker. I found mine at the Dayton Hamvention many years ago for $10. It consists of a few dials and a very sensitive ‘Magic Eye’ tube which will deflect leakage is detected. Mr Carlson’s Lab has a great video on how to use one.

To check each cap I had to remove each of them from circuit, one at a time. There’s no getting around this, otherwise you might miss-read the cap value or leakage test. Remarkably enough, the vast majority of these Feb 1942 capacitors tested good. This is a testament to not replacing all the caps if you don’t have to. I found that all but three of the metal-can-sealed wax and paper caps (special to ARC-5 and other WW2 radio equipment, otherwise known as ‘flower pot’ capacitors due to the shape of their metal cans) and the electrolytic caps needed to be replaced. I opted to re-stuff the defective caps by opening the metal cans, extracting the guts, and putting in a modern replacement, then gluing the cans back together.

Resistor Care

Next I checked all of the resistors with my Fluke DVM. The nice thing about tube gear is that when the power is  turned off the tubes present an open-circuit and therefore you can test resistors reliably in-circuit without removing them.

Old resistors tend to increase in value over time. Particularly the higher valued ones in the 100’s of K or M ohm range. For this radio not one resistor was out of tolerance! Amazing for resistors built before February of ’42.

Servicing the Dynamotor

I then moved onto cleaning the Dynamotor. It was running but not well. Fortunately these are easy to service, they are designed so that anyone with a flat-head screwdriver can fix them. I found a video on servicing a similar motor and proceeded to strip mine down, clean out the old grease in the bearings, put new grease into the bearings, clean the armatures, and re-assemble. Dynamotor worked perfectly, just like new again!

Problems with the Tuning Variable Capacitor

With good resistors, good caps, a working dynamotor I then moved onto the tuning mechanism. Something was not right with it, the plates on the large variable tuning cap were literally grinding against each other. I made the necessary repairs; it appears that this unit was dropped at some point and the fixed plates, which were normally electrically isolated from ground, had popped off of their plastic insulators. I put them back into place and the tuning unit was good as new.

Old radios are like old cars, they could use an alignment from time to time. Given the changes to the tuning unit I realized that I had to do a full alignment. I followed the instructions from the original service manual, aligning the IF first (using a modern synthesized signal generator to get it spot-on), then the front-end variable cap assembly that I had just repaired. The later was tricky, with some high, medium, and low-band-specific alignments required.

With the receiver aligned I tested its sensitivity. I measured <1 uV on AM at 2 MHz, more than good enough for me and easily exceeding the original factory spec.

Build a Wiring Harness




At this point I had two toggle switches and a pot with a mess of wire shoved into the rear panel connector pins. To organize this mess and to make a more permanent functional display for the radio I built up a small external switch panel and drilled a hole pattern in it so it would simply bolt to the side of the radio using two of the existing machine screws on the case. I left the original rear power plug in place and found out that ‘miniature banana’ plugs fit perfectly into the WW2 socketed pins. I used these banana plugs to connect up the control panel and a 600 ohms speaker. With all of this I made a neat wire harness to tie it all together.

Final Testing, It’s Alive!

Now that everything was in order it was time to try the radio in its final configuration. I connected up my 20 m external dipole and powered up the radio. The whrrrr was smoother than ever. Within seconds stations starting coming in strong, much louder than before. I tweaked the antenna coupling control, they were louder still. I listened to a basketball game from an AM broadcast station in Chicago, I tuned into WWV at 2.5 MHz, and tuned in an 80 m AM net. What an incredible receiver, it was wide awake and operating to its original specifications once more!

After 3 Years of Operation…

This unit switches-on every time without fail, whrring away for innumerable demos for friends and family. Everyone is thrilled and amazed to see a dynamotor-powered receiver that is running almost entirely on its original parts and as it was originally built.

By accident I even connected the DC input backwards, reverse polarity. The dynamotor roared into life but the radio never produced audio. I figured out the problem after about five minutes of reverse polarity operation.  Fortunately for me, and unlike solid state equipment, no damage was done. I re-connected it the correct way and it worked just as well as it did before.

If It’s from WW2, Don’t Hack it, Preserve It!

We are now at a point where the surplus WW2 electronics should no longer be hacked to bits. Join the movement, there are many others who restore WW2 and other vintage gear to be original as possible. Most of the community orbits around Electric Radio Magazine. Test those capacitors before throwing them in the garbage and keep those filaments lit!



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A gigantic Friday 13th post-election asteroid is headed for Earth, Nasa reveals

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In the olden days, celestial events were taken as omens which foretold the future.

So you might wonder what on Earth it means that an asteroid is heading our way on Friday 13th – which is also the day we find out who won the general election.

At about 1 pm UK time, we’re due for a close encounter with a space rock called Asteroid XO1 that could be more than 70 metres wide.

If this object were to hit Earth, it could do some serious damage at a local level, although it’s not big enough to send humanity into extinction.

We’re glad to say that the asteroid is not to here to put us out of our misery. It will zoom harmlessly past and onwards on its long, lonely journey through the heavens.

Here’s what Nasa has previously said about the risk posed by space objects: ‘If a rocky meteoroid larger than 25 meters but smaller than one kilometre (a little more than 1/2 mile) were to hit Earth, it would likely cause local damage to the impact area.

‘We believe anything larger than one to two kilometres could have worldwide effects.’

A view of the Hera mission’s spacecraft arriving at Didymos (Image: ESA)

Earlier this month the European Space Agency has officially confirmed a mission designed to help humanity work out how to protect Earth from the danger posed by apocalypse asteroids.

Space ministers from European nations gathered at a conference called Space19+ in Seville, Spain, where they approved the Hera asteroid mission, which will send spacecraft to a space rock called Didymos – a binary asteroid made up of two objects orbiting each other.

This is ‘part of the Agency’s broader planetary defence initiatives that aim to protect European and world citizens’ from space rocks.

‘Hera will be humanity’s first-ever spacecraft to visit a double asteroid, the Didymos binary system,’ ESA wrote in a statement.

In the first stage of the mission, a spacecraft will smash into the space rock. Then a second ship will assess the crash site and gather data on the effects of the collision.

Nasa is already working on a craft called Double Asteroid Impact Test, whilst Italy will send a small CubeSat satellite to monitor the action.

The ESA mission is called Hera and will perform a ‘close-up survey of the post-impact asteroid’ and gather measurements such as the asteroid’s mass as well as the size of the crater left behind after impact

‘First, Nasa will crash its DART spacecraft into the smaller asteroid – known as Didymoon – before ESA’s Hera comes in to map the resulting impact crater and measure the asteroid’s mass,’ ESA wrote.

Illustration showing the DART craft smashing into Didymos, viewed from the larger object in the binary asteroid (Image: ESA)

Illustration showing the DART craft smashing into Didymos, viewed from the larger object in the binary asteroid (Image: ESA)

‘Hera will carry two CubeSats on board, which will be able to fly much closer to the asteroid’s surface, carrying out crucial scientific studies, before touching down. Hera’s up-close observations will turn asteroid deflection into a well-understood planetary defence technique.’

It’s hoped that the cosmic crash will allow scientists to work out the plausibility of deflecting asteroids discovered to be on a collision course with our planet.

Ian Carnelli, who is managing the Hera mission, said: ‘Flying the two missions together will greatly magnify their overall knowledge return. Hera will in fact gather essential data to turn this one-off experiment into an asteroid deflection technique applicable to other asteroids. Hera will also be the first mission to rendezvous with a binary asteroid system, a mysterious class of object believed to make up around 15% of all known asteroids.

‘And our mission will test a variety of important new technologies, including deep space CubeSats, inter-satellite links and autonomous image-based navigation techniques, while also providing us with valuable experience of low-gravity operations.’

The main body of Didymos is roughly 780 metres wide across, with its ‘moonlet’ about the size of Egypt’s Great Pyramid, stretching to about 160 metres wide.

Earlier this year, scientists warned that asteroids are stronger than predicted and said humanity could have a tough time destroying a doomsday space rock on a collision course with Earth.

They found that a huge impact would not turn a city-sized object into a harmless ‘rubble pile’, but leave it with ‘significant strength’.

The findings could have a massive influence on how our species deals with the threat posed by gigantic space rocks.

Asteroids flying close to the planet Earth 'Elements of the image furnished by NASA'; Shutterstock ID 258104936; Purchase Order: -

‘We are impacted fairly often by small asteroids, such as in the Chelyabinsk event a few years ago,’ said K.T. Ramesh of Johns Hopkins University.

‘It is only a matter of time before these questions go from being academic to defining our response to a major threat.

‘We need to have a good idea of what we should do when that time comes – and scientific efforts like this one are critical to help us make those decisions.’

Scientists are currently trying to work out what to do if an asteroid suddenly appears on the horizon.

The latest research considered what would happen if we smashed a kilometre-wide asteroid into another that’s 25-kilometres wide – which is easily big enough to wipe out life on Earth.

They found that ‘millions of cracks formed and rippled throughout the asteroid, parts of the [larger] asteroid flowed like sand, and a crater was created’ after the impact.

But after this, ‘the impacted asteroid retained significant strength because it had not cracked completely, indicating that more energy would be needed to destroy asteroids’.

This means we might find it very hard to just go up into space and nuke an asteroid, forcing us to adopt a different strategy to save our species from apocalypse space rocks.

“It may sound like science fiction but a great deal of research considers asteroid collisions,’ said Charles El Mir, lead author of a paper on the research.

‘For example, if there’s an asteroid coming at Earth, are we better off breaking it into small pieces, or nudging it to go a different direction?

‘And if the latter, how much force should we hit it with to move it away without causing it to break? These are actual questions under consideration.’



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