Missing Asteroids Mystery Solved

Posted: Feb 18 2016, 4:47am CST | by , Updated: Feb 18 2016, 4:50am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Missing Asteroids Mystery Solved
The actual mechanism causing asteroids to disrupt is still unknown but some obvious scenarios such as tidal forces caused by the Sun and direct sublimation of silicates have been ruled out. One of the remaining scenarios is that volatiles inside the asteroid sublimate at moderate temperatures and create enough pressure to blow up the body. A similar process on a smaller scale called spalling can also break up surface rocks. Credit: Lauri Voutilainen
  • Enigma of Asteroid Destruction Decoded

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The enigma of asteroid destruction has been decoded. The NEOs supposedly disintegrate before they fall into the sun.

Many Near Earth Objects (NEOs) which include asteroids crumble before falling into the sun. Nearly 9000 NEOs were observed by scientists and astronomers.

These objects come close enough to the earth to be a cause for rising alarm. A model of the NEO population was built. There seemed to be a glitch somewhere in the model. The prediction it made was that there should have been 10 times more NEOs than were actually found in reality.

These NEOs also closely approach the sun. What the close observations showed was that the NEOs which were not there were destroyed before they fell into the sun.

The breakup of the asteroids when they get too close to the sun was an inevitability. It was a foregone conclusion. Most of the calculations were correct.

This seminal study ought to pave the way for a better understanding of NEOs. Many of the so-called shooting stars seen in the night sky are actually debris from NEOs which are disintegrating on their journeys close to the sun. The debris follows the same orbital paths as the parent NEOs.

Scientists have issues finding the NEOs from which this debris came in the first place. This might be due to the fact that the original NEOs had been destroyed.

A further factoid was revealed. Darker NEOs die farther away from the sun than lighter NEOs. This is something which has been known for a long time.

Light colored NEOs tend to approach very close to the sun and thus get disintegrated quickly. Thus darker asteroids are different in composition to light colored asteroids.

The biggest advance in our knowledge is that by tracking the orbits and sizes of asteroids we can know about their interior compositions.

This is a completely new gauging method to judge NEOs by. Over 100,000 images of NEOs went into the practical work of this study. They were observed in the Arizona night sky over an eight year period of time.

Up until now, over 14,000 NEOs have been tracked. The total amount of NEOs are thought to be in the millions. Most of the asteroids begin their lives in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Slowly they start coming into the areas close to earth after being nudged by Jupiter or Saturn.

This study has been published in the journal Nature.

"Perhaps the most intriguing outcome of this study is that it is now possible to test models of asteroid interiors simply by keeping track of their orbits and sizes. This is truly remarkable and was completely unexpected when we first started constructing the new NEO model."

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