Skygazing Spectacular: Asteroid Hunt

Asteroids are rocky bodies of leftover space rubble that were created 4.6 billion years ago when our solar system formed. They come in a variety material compositions, including clay, silicate rocks, and nickel-iron.

Most discussion of these ancient space boulders has been regulated to museums or science classes, but some upcoming asteroid encounters make the thought of an asteroid hit a little closer to home (hopefully not literally!).

Just this past week, not one but two asteroids waved to us as they passed by our planet. Asteroid 2015 W01 was the size of a large building, and passed us by at a safe distance of nearly 2 million miles. It’s smaller cousin, Asteroid 2024 JD1 was about the size of an airplane, and kept an even more comfortable distance at nearly 4.5 million miles away.

But if you’re looking for a more spectacular experience, you’ll want to wait until 2029, when the spookily titled Apophis, aka “the God of Destruction” will fly by our planet on a particularly ominous Friday the 13th in April of that year.

It’s initial discovery in 2004 came with a bit of a panic when scientists estimated it had a ~3% chance of hitting Earth! But fortunately more recent observations have led astronomers to conclude that it does not have a chance to impact our planet. Which is definitely fortunate considering it’s about the size of the Empire State building!

It will, however, be visible to the naked eye as it passes by at only 30,600 kilometers (19,000 miles) above our planet. It’s proximity also makes it particularly interesting to the scientific community! During it’s flyby, scientists hope to explore how Earth’s gravitational pull will impact the space rock, as well as collect samples.

But while you’re waiting on this visual hunt for giant space rocks, why not take a chance on a hunt through the microscopic world? This competition’s Hunt will run between midnight EST on 5/25 and noon EST on 5/30.There are 12 mergers in the Hunt cell; you have 5.5 days and 24 guesses to locate them all.

How to identify and report mergers

    1. Select Hunt cell from Change Cell menu. Stay in the overview.
    2. Type /debug into chat. This will reveal a special box with information about the cell (located above the “Start Playing” box).
    3. Use ALT+click to select the origin point of the merger you have identified. It is a good idea to zoom in close on the merger before you select it to get the most accurate coordinates.
    4. Find the coordinates of the merger’s origin in the cell information box. These are next to the word “center.”
    5. In the chat pm thehunt bot your coordinates. For example: /pm thehunt 5123 4321 5678.
    6. thehunt bot will let you know if you got it right or wrong and tell you how many guesses you have left.
    7. To check how many mergers you have found and to check what guesses you have submitted, type “/pm thehunt !list”; the bot will give you a list of all the coordinates you have guessed, and whether or not there was a merger at each set of coordinates. A + means there was a merger there, a  means there was not a merger there.
    8. If you accidentally submit the same coordinate a second time, it does not count as two guesses.

Do not reveal your coordinates to other players. Do not do anything against the spirit of the Hunt. Anyone caught cheating will be automatically disqualified from the event and will not receive any points.

Proximity to merger start point is determined by number of voxels (1 voxel = approx. 1/250th of a cube’s width). Mergers are only counted as found if guessed within a distance of 250 voxels. Pieces of dust floating in space don’t count as mergers, so please don’t report them! We also do not count fused mergers that could not be removed during the Hunt prep process.

Bonus info is available in your in-game notifications. Good luck, and happy hunting!