Asteroid findings from specks of space dust could save the planet: Research | Tech News

Asteroid findings from specks of space dust could save the planet: Research

New research into the durability and age of an ancient asteroid made of rocky rubble and dust, revealed significant findings that could contribute to potentially saving the planet if one ever hurtled toward Earth.

By:ANI
| Updated on: Jan 28 2023, 08:54 IST
Are near-Earth objects DANGEROUS? Know what NASA says about scary comets, asteroids
Asteroids
1/5 Earth has objects near it, which sometimes get attracted towards the planet because of its gravitational pull. Of course, not every near-Earth object manages to reach the surface of the planet. The object needs to be large enough to survive its fiery journey through the atmosphere of the Earth. (Pixabay)
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2/5 What is a near-Earth object? Asteroids or comets that can pass within 30 million miles or 50 million kilometers of Earth's orbit are known as near-Earth objects or NEO. According to NASA, "A near-Earth object (NEO) is an asteroid or comet whose orbit brings it within a zone approximately 121 million miles (195 million kilometers) from the Sun, meaning that it can pass within about 30 million miles (50 million kilometers) of Earth’s orbit." (Pixabay)
Asteroids
3/5 NASA further informed that the vast majority of NEOs that enter Earth’s atmosphere disintegrate before reaching the surface (and more than 100 tons of dust particles disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere daily). Those NEOs that are larger than around 98 to 164 feet (30 to 50 meters) in size could cause widespread damage in and around their impact sites. Apart from NEOs, there is another category that NASA uses. These are the potentially hazardous objects (PHO). These are near-Earth objects whose orbit brings them within 4.7 million miles (7.5 million km) of Earth’s orbit, or is greater than 500 feet (140 meters) in size. (Pixabay)
Asteroids
4/5 The highest risk of impact for a known asteroid is a 1 in 714 chance of impact by an asteroid designated 2009 FD in 2185. This means that the possibility that it could impact then is less than 0.2 percent. NASA said, "One asteroid that NASA is studying up close, called Bennu, has a 1/2700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2195. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will complete a 2-year investigation of Bennu before plucking a sample of asteroid material off its surface and delivering it back to Earth." (Pixabay)
Asteroids
5/5 How can we prevent an asteroid from hitting Earth? Currently, an asteroid impact is the only natural disaster that NASA might be able to prevent. There are a few methods that NASA is studying to deflect an asteroid on a course to impact Earth. One of these techniques is called a gravity tractor—it involves a spacecraft that would rendezvous with an asteroid (but not land on its surface) and maintain its relative, optimal position to use the mutual gravity attraction between the satellite and the asteroid to slowly alter the course of the asteroid. (Pixabay)
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The Curtin-led team used two complementary techniques to analyse the three dust particles. (Bloomberg)

New research into the durability and age of an ancient asteroid made of rocky rubble and dust, revealed significant findings that could contribute to potentially saving the planet if one ever hurtled toward Earth.

Curtin University-led research into the durability and age of an ancient asteroid made of rocky rubble and dust, revealed significant findings that could contribute to potentially saving the planet if one ever hurtled toward Earth.

The international team studied three tiny dust particles collected from the surface of ancient 500-metre-long rubble pile asteroid, Itokawa, returned to Earth by the Japanese Space Agency's Hayabusa 1 probe.

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The study's results showed asteroid Itokawa, which is 2 million kilometres from Earth and around the size of Sydney Harbour Bridge, was hard to destroy and resistant to collision.

Lead author Professor Fred Jourdan, Director of the Western Australian Argon Isotope Facility, part of the John de Laeter Centre and the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin, said the team also found Itokawa is almost as old as the solar system itself.

"Unlike monolithic asteroids, Itokawa is not a single lump of rock, but belongs to the rubble pile family which means it's entirely made of loose boulders and rocks, with almost half of it being empty space," Professor Jourdan said.

"The survival time of monolithic asteroids the size of Itokawa is predicted to be only several hundreds of thousands of years in the asteroid belt.

"The huge impact that destroyed Itokawa's monolithic parent asteroid and formed Itokawa happened at least 4.2 billion years ago. Such an astonishingly long survival time for an asteroid the size of Itokawa is attributed to the shock-absorbent nature of rubble pile material.

"In short, we found that Itokawa is like a giant space cushion, and very hard to destroy."

The Curtin-led team used two complementary techniques to analyse the three dust particles. The first one is called Electron Backscattered Diffraction and can measure if a rock has been shocked by any meteor impact. The second method - argon-argon dating - is used to date asteroid impacts.

Co-author Associate Professor Nick Timms, also from Curtin's School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said the durability of rubble pile asteroids was previously unknown, jeopardising the ability to design defence strategies in case one was hurtling toward Earth.

"We set out to answer whether rubble pile asteroids are resistant to being shocked or whether they fragment at the slightest knock," Associate Professor Timms said.

"Now that we have found they can survive in the solar system for almost its entire history, they must be more abundant in the asteroid belt than previously thought, so there is more chance that if a big asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, it will be a rubble pile.

"The good news is that we can also use this information to our advantage - if an asteroid is detected too late for a kinetic push, we can then potentially use a more aggressive approach like using the shockwave of a close-by nuclear blast to push a rubble-pile asteroid off course without destroying it."

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First Published Date: 28 Jan, 08:54 IST
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