When a gigantic 6.4-km asteroid broke and pieces crashed on Earth | Tech News

When a gigantic 6.4-km asteroid broke and pieces crashed on Earth

Seven years ago, a big chunk from a massive 6.4-kilometers wide asteroid broke apart and smashed into the Earth. The piece of asteroid has now offered a glimpse into the origin of life.

| Updated on: Dec 20 2022, 10:19 IST
Asteroid fun facts in pics: NASA reveals all you need to know
1/5 Space is full of objects, out of which only a few have been discovered. Asteroids are some of these objects. If you are not aware about the dangerous objects called asteroids, here are some facts you should know. First, did you know that asteroids are sometimes called minor planets? Well, they are. (Pixabay)
2/5 Differences between an Asteroid, Comet, Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite: According to the information provided by NASA, Asteroid is a relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun. Comet is a relatively small, at times active, object whose ice can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas. Meteoroid is a small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun. Meteor is the light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere and vaporizes, in short, a shooting star. While, Meteorite is a meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands upon the Earth's surface. (NASA)
3/5 Asteroid: Size, frequency and impact- More than 100 tons of dust and sand sized particles are bombarded towards Earth everyday, according to NASA. While, about once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth's atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface. Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area. Only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth's civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences. Space rocks smaller than about 25 meters (about 82 feet) will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth's atmosphere and cause little or no damage. By comparison, asteroids that populate the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and pose no threat to Earth, can be as big as 940 kilometers (about 583 miles) across. (NASA)
4/5 How is an Asteroid Orbit Calculated? An asteroid's orbit is computed by finding the elliptical path about the sun that best fits the available observations of the object. That is, the object's computed path about the sun is adjusted until the predictions of where the asteroid should have appeared in the sky at several observed times match the positions where the object was actually observed to be at those same times. (Pixabay)
5/5 What is NASA doing to find and learn more about potentially hazardous asteroids and comets? NASA has established a Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), managed in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The PDCO ensures the early detection of potentially hazardous objects (PHOs) - asteroids and comets whose orbits are predicted to bring them within 0.05 Astronomical Units of Earth (5 million miles or 8 million kilometers) and of a size large enough to reach Earth's surface - that is, greater than approximately 30 to 50 meters. NASA tracks and characterizes these objects and issues warnings about potential impacts, providing timely and accurate information. NASA also leads the coordination of U.S. Government planning for response to an actual impact threat. (AFP)
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Know all about the Kamargaon meteorite, which broke apart from a gigantic asteroid from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. (Pixabay)

Just a few days ago, the Earth witnessed the Geminids meteor shower where the Earth annually passes by the debris left behind by the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. But what we look at as bright, glowing lights across the sky are actually small space rocks or meteors that could just as easily get pulled by the Earth and crash onto it. And this is not just a hypothetical possibility, this happens a lot around the planet. Just seven years ago, on November 13, 2015, a piece of a gigantic asteroid fell near the town of Kamargaon in Assam, India. While it did not cause any major destruction owing to the remote region, the meteorite, which weighed 12 kilograms, could have easily taken many lives. So, what caused this asteroid shard to hit the Earth and why has the Kamargaon meteorite become important for us? Find out.

According to a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets, this broken asteroid has conveyed a very important piece of evidence to us that points us towards the origin of life itself. The research is conducted by a team at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur who claim that the composition and structure of the Kamargaon meteorite can reveal important information about the volatile gasses that help create and sustain life.

How the asteroid shard landed on Earth

The study theorizes that it belongs to the asteroid belt present between Mars and Jupiter. The region is filled with asteroids that revolve around the Sun in their independent orbits. After the parent asteroid, a 6.4-kilometers wide space rock, collided with another, this piece broke off and began moving towards our planet along with some smaller meteorites.

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Why is the Kamargaon meteorite important

The researchers have found a systemic type of hole on the asteroid called a vesicle. These vesicles are formed when the gasses trapped within an asteroid begin expanding due to heat and try to escape. This probably happened when the meteorite came in contact with Earth's atmosphere and the friction caused it to heat up. But this has also highlighted that there was presence of volatile elements such as oxygen, carbon, sodium, manganese and sulfur which are also responsible for creating and sustaining life. Such evidence has been found for the first time in an asteroid belonging to the outer solar system.

This also tells us that these important elements responsible for the origin of life probably existed right at the beginning of the solar system and in fact came straight from stars and star dusts. While a definitive answer is still not possible, this is a big clue in the giant puzzle of our origin.

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First Published Date: 20 Dec, 10:12 IST