Imminent asteroid missions can help reveal our origins and save Earth from deadly strikes

DART changes the orbit of the moon around the asteroid. Credit: NASA

Asteroids are the wreckage of the early solar system and may reveal secrets of the origin of our planet. But they can also put an end to life on Earth. Now two missions, Lucy When DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) provides further insight into both of these features. DART even tries to redirect the orbit of the moon around the asteroid.

Space rocks are generally considered asteroids when they are larger than about 1 km in size and are mainly made of “nonvolatile” material, a chemical that easily vaporizes. For example, carbon monoxide is volatile because it vaporizes at a temperature of -191 ° C. However, iron with a vaporization point of 2,862 ° C is non-volatile.

This is a little different from a comet. Asteroids are more commonly found inside the solar system, but volatile-rich comets tend to lie in outer parts far from the heat of the Sun. To date, about 500,000 asteroids have been cataloged, many of which have their own small satellites.

Asteroids are believed to be the wreckage of Planetesimal— Precursors of planets in the early solar system. Together under gravity, they formed the familiar world we know today. Asteroids somehow escaped this process and preserved some of our early solar system states from the pre-planetary era. This era is quite mysterious.How Small dust particlesAt that time, which made up most of the solid materials, could be formed by aggregating larger objects such as asteroids, given the lack of their own important gravitational fields. .. Research..

The best-known asteroids are those in the asteroid belt, which is one million powerful asteroids orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.This sounds a lot, but the space is vast and the distance between ones is vast asteroid Neighbors are usually millions of kilometers. Therefore, at least in our solar system, the probability of successfully navigating the asteroid belt is 3,720 to 1..

Nasa: Imminent asteroid missions could reveal our origins-and help save Earth from deadly strikes

Asteroid montage (not to scale). Credit: NASA / ESA

The US $ 980 million (£ 714 million) Lucy spacecraft to be launched on October 16 jump Three asteroid fields in the course of its 12-year mission.Named Lucy after the famous Hominini fossil, Because it is expected to be equally revolutionary for our knowledge of the origin of the solar system. Lucy first flies over the main belt and then travels outwards to visit two other less familiar asteroid belts.Jupiter Trojans..

Troy’s Jupiter asteroid orbits the Sun at the “Lagrange Point”. These are positions in space, sometimes for billions of years, so that the gravitational pull of the sun and planets balances and the objects there naturally stay in place. Every planet in the solar system has five such points, numbered L1 to L5 (see image below). Jupiter’s Trojans, gathered at L4 and L5, are two giant, unexplored asteroid fields, with at least as many asteroids as the main belt between them.

Nasa: Imminent asteroid missions could reveal our origins-and help save Earth from deadly strikes

Lagrange point.Courtesy of author

Lucy first challenges L4 Jupiter Trojan and reaches 2027. It then uses the gravity of the planet to fly back towards Earth and pachinko back towards the L5 Jupiter Trojan, which will reach 2033.This remarkable flight path is achieved at Solar electric propulsion..

Spacecraft are equipped with a range of equipment, including sophisticated cameras and spectrometers, to map asteroids and identify their composition. The chemical composition of Jupiter’s Trojans is expected to be slightly different from that of major belt asteroids, which contain higher concentrations of volatiles that obscure the distinction between asteroids and comets.Indeed, one Jupiter Trojan was recently discovered Comet-like tail..

Asteroid strike

Not all asteroids are trapped in the belt. Some people are wandering the entire solar system in orbits that allow them to approach planets like Earth. The danger of asteroid impact is relatively well known, especially after the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, which exploded in a Russian town, injured more than 1,000 people and caused enormous damage.

At some point in late November, NASA will attempt to launch DART.This spaceship tries to intercept 65803 Didymos, A near-Earth asteroid with its own small moon called Dimorphos. A moon about 170 meters in size is struck by a 500 kg DART spacecraft at an impact speed of 6.6 kilometers per second. The purpose is to observe changes in the orbital motion of Dimorphos around Didymos as a result of the collision.

This is accomplished by a follow-up mission initiated by ESA. SpatulaWill reach Didymos in 2026 and carry out a detailed investigation of the orbit of Dimorphos. By measuring changes in asteroid orbits, scientists and engineers will be able to more accurately calculate the amount of energy needed to change the orbits of asteroids that threaten the virtual future. It must be emphasized that no future collisions between asteroids and Earth are currently known, but it is clearly best to be prepared for such a situation.

There are more asteroid missions in the near future. NASA launches in August 2022 Psychedelic To visit the asteroid of the same name 16 Psyche, Orbit the main belt. This unique world is over 200 km in diameter and contains many metals. In fact, it is believed to be the exposed core of a once-growing planet in the early solar system, which was devastated at some point in the distant past. The collision sheared the outer layers of the fledgling planet, leaving behind an exposed metal-rich core. If this theory is correct, it is the first time scientists have had the opportunity to directly observe the planet’s core.

This is a lot of future missions, and many recent missions Previous one, Represents something in the golden age of asteroid research. Asteroids still have many stories, with enormous economic potential as a mining resource and pose a clear danger to Earth’s civilization.

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Imminent asteroid missions can help reveal our origins and save Earth from deadly strikes

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