Asteroids lurking between Earth and the sun could help shed light on the solar system

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Asteroids lurking between Earth and the sun, but hidden by our star’s brilliance, could help shed light on the history of the solar system, a scientist believes.

Astronomer Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, says the discoveries of near-terrestrial objects (NEOs) are just beginning.

This is because telescopes tend to look away from our planet so they can avoid the sun’s glare; however, new studies looking in the other direction are revealing more NEOs — including never-before-seen asteroids.

Sheppard and other experts say finding and tracking these space rocks could be vital to help improve our understanding of planet formation and the history of the solar system.

“New telescopic surveys defy the sun’s glare and search for asteroids toward the sun during twilight,” Sheppard wrote in a column in the latest Science journal.

“These studies have found many previously undiscovered asteroids in the Earth.”

Asteroids lurking between Earth and the sun, but hidden by our star's brilliance, could help shed light on solar system history, scientist believes (stock image)

Asteroids lurking between Earth and the sun, but hidden by our star’s brilliance, could help shed light on solar system history, scientist believes (stock image)

What is a ‘potentially dangerous’ asteroid?

A potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) is an asteroid whose orbit is closer than 0.05 AU (about 7.5 million km) to Earth.

It is also at least 100 meters (300 ft) in diameter.

The International Astronomical Union claims there are about 1,500 potentially dangerous asteroids.

While these pose no threat to Earth so far, asteroids of this size could wreak havoc if they land on our planet, especially in densely populated areas.

It is believed that one touches the Earth once every 200-300 years.

The discoveries include the first asteroid to orbit Venus – dubbed ‘Ayló’chaxnim 2020 AV2 – and the asteroid that currently has the shortest known orbital period around the sun, called 2021 PH27.

Modeling had predicted that these space rocks should exist, but now telescopes are actually beginning to confirm their presence.

Among the observatories are the Zwicky Transient Facility camera in California and the National Science Foundation’s Blanco 4-meter telescope in Chile.

According to NASA, there are more than 26,000 near-Earth asteroids, although only about 10,000 are larger than 140 meters.

They are categorized according to their position in our solar system – for example, the orbit of Atiras to the interior of the Earth and the interior of Vatiras to Venus.

In 2026, the US space agency’s Near-Earth Object Surveyor Space Telescope (NEO Surveyor) will be launched to help detect more of these asteroids.

It will be placed between the Earth and the Sun to better see space rocks that cannot be seen at the moment because of their positions in space.

According to NASA-funded experts, some asteroids can “sneak” us thanks to a quirk of Earth’s rotation that makes it seem like they’re barely moving — making them difficult to detect.

The scientists examined how in 2019 telescopes nearly missed a 328-foot-wide asteroid that came within a radius of 70,500 miles from Earth.

The space rock, dubbed “2019 OK,” was the first object of its size to come this close to our planet since 1908 — but it wasn’t spotted until 24 hours before its closest approach.

The reason, the team determined, is that it moved toward us in such a way that its motion across the night sky was counteracted by the Earth’s rotation.

So — for early warning systems like Pan-STARRS1 at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii — 2019 OK seemed to stand still, so the automated detection software didn’t start.

In fact, the experts said up to half of the asteroids approaching Earth from a danger zone east of “opposition” are likely to undergo periods of such apparent slow motion.

This means that half of these asteroids may also be difficult to detect at the moment — and computer telescopes will need to be updated to account for the effect.

Scientists believe that most NEOs are asteroids that have detached from the main belt between Mars and Jupiter.

However, Sheppard believes there may also be stable inner reservoirs of NEOs that replace asteroids spinning into the wider solar system, colliding with a planet, or being obliterated by the sun.

Asteroids are categorized based on their position in our solar system.  For example, Atiras orbits toward Earth and the interior of Vatiras toward Venus (pictured above)

Asteroids are categorized based on their position in our solar system.  For example, Atiras orbits toward Earth and the interior of Vatiras toward Venus (pictured above)

Asteroids are categorized based on their position in our solar system. For example, Atiras orbits toward Earth and the interior of Vatiras toward Venus (pictured above)

Scientists know that the number of NEOs has been stable for the past few billion years – after observing craters on planets and moons – but the fact that they have caused such unstable orbits and unpredictable movements by the sun suggests that they may have been in one form or another. way to be supplemented.

“The motion depends on the asteroid’s rotation, size, albedo and distance from the sun,” Sheppard wrote.

“The smaller an asteroid is and the more sunlight it absorbs, the greater its movement.”

The discovery of NEOs should help scientists understand more about their movement and how their numbers managed to remain stable for such a long time.

Experts believe that about 90 percent of so-called “planet killer” NEOs — which are just over half a mile (1 km) or more away — have already been found.

“The last few unknown 1km NEOs likely have orbits close to the sun or high slopes, keeping them away from the fields of the main NEO studies,” Sheppard added.

The perspective was published in Science.

Explained: the difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks

A asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.

A comet is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.

A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.

This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small that they evaporate into the atmosphere.

When one of these meteoroids reaches Earth, it becomes a . named meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.

For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris in the atmosphere burns up, forming a meteor shower.

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