Wednesday, July 28

Asteroids turn the solar system into a pool table

The solar system has become a billiard table in which numerous asteroids approach the orbit of our planet in successive moments, without at the moment any of the 25,000 Known Nearby Objects representing a certain threat of collision with the Earth.

The most recent example of this billiard table metaphor is Apophis, a 340-meter-wide space rock that had us in suspense between 2004 and 2006 because it was thought to be inevitable that it would collide with our planet in 2029, 2036 or 2037.

On March 6, Apophis paid us a visit and passed more than 16 million kilometers from Earth. We also know that it will return in 2029 and that it will pass only 40,000 kilometers from our planet: it will skim the geostationary satellites that orbit 35,848 kilometers above the Earth’s equator.

It will be the first time that astronomers can see such a large asteroid so close, stand out the journal Nature. That will help confirm or ward off the threat that 2068 could be really dangerous.

The latest calculations consider it possible that Apophis collide with Earth 47 years from now, as it is moving away from its gravitational orbit at a distance of about 170 meters per year. In that case, the chances of impact remain low: one in 150,000.

If it did eventually hit, Apophis would release an energy of at least 870 megatons, equivalent to 65,500 bombs like the one at Hiroshima.

That impact could wipe out a mid-size nation or cause a global tsunami if it struck an ocean, but it would not cause mass extinctions or permanent global damage. stand out Sputniknews.

The biggest this year

The biggest this year The largest asteroid we expect this year is called 2001 FO32, discovered 20 years ago, and is one kilometer in diameter. Next Sunday, March 21, it will pass 2 million kilometers from our planet, about 5 times the distance that separates the Moon from the Earth.

It will do so at a speed higher than that of most of the asteroids that visit us: 124,000 kilometers per hour, due to its inclined and elongated orbit.

As 2001 FO32 makes its journey into the solar system, the asteroid gains speed in the same way that a skateboard accelerates when it falls into the center of a half tube. Then it loses acceleration and, going up, is thrown into deep space to start a new cycle around the Sun.

2001 FO32 represents another opportunity for astronomers, who will enjoy getting a good look at a rock relic that formed at the dawn of our solar system, stand out at NASA.

Record of discoveries

Record of discoveries Thanks to the improvement of telescopes, astronomers recorded in 2020 a record of discoveries of new near-Earth asteroids: 2,958. There are many more balls on the pool table in the solar system than we expected.

Of these previously unknown asteroids, 107 were closer to us than the Moon. One of them, dubbed 2020 QG, glided just 2,950 kilometers above the Indian Ocean last August.

In November, another small asteroid passed within 400 kilometers of us, although we only saw it 15 hours after it was gone. It would have destroyed itself further into the Earth’s atmosphere, if it had finally hit us.

In addition to the known near-Earth asteroids, there are more than a hundred comets with an orbital period of less than 200 years, and several meteoroids (small rocky bodies) orbiting the Sun that, due to their size, could be detected if they got close. U.S.

Dangerous kites

Dangerous kites Comets near Earth pose an additional danger because they can lead to meteor showers with large fragments. The Tunguska event is believed to have been caused by a comet fragment.

The Tunguska event, which occurred on June 30, 1908 over the sparsely populated East Siberian taiga, was a large airborne explosion of a meteoroid about 100 meters in size, thought to have come from Comet Encke, which has never been less than 26 million kilometers from Earth.

Comet Halley, which last visited us in 1986 and we expect it again in 2061, seven years before Apophis could be dangerous, is one of a hundred short-period comets that traverse the solar system.

Halley is also part of the story of how human beings have evolved in understanding these cosmic episodes, points out Scientific American.

Halley, witness

Halley, witness Known at least since 240 BC, Halley has witnessed how comets have led us, from watching with fear the comings and goings of these billiard balls traversing the solar system, to joining forces to prevent and perhaps avoid collisions that would change the course of our evolution.

It is believed that, around every 10,000 years, a rocky asteroid of about a hundred meters reaches the Earth and causes local disasters or tidal waves. Also that every several hundred thousand years, asteroids of more than one kilometer can cause global disasters.

Since their orbital paths often cross that of Earth, collisions with objects close to our planet have occurred in the past. This finding has increased astronomical warning systems, even with Artificial Intelligence, given the possibility of future approaches close to Earth. Almost every year we discover that there are more asteroids nearby than we knew about. 2021 is following that trajectory.

Image: Apophis trajectory in 2029, near the swarm of satellites orbiting the Earth. (Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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