Potentially dangerous objects worth quadrillions of dollars. Will they start a new gold rush?
Space holds many dangers, and although our defense systems have become more accurate in recent years, they are not foolproof. Sometimes a threat can be overlooked, as happened 10 years ago in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Are asteroids the only thing we should be afraid of? Some people see them as a chance to get rich, because there are rocks floating around the solar system worth more than the fortunes of the richest people in the world.
In 2013, a meteoroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Its explosion caused huge material losses and injured over 1,500 people, but the object remained invisible until the last moments. How did he escape the attention of dozens of telescopes aimed at the sky? First, it was tiny and when it broke up it was about 20 meters in diameter. Secondly, it entered the Earth’s atmosphere around 9 a.m. – it was simply too bright for observations.
The process of searching for asteroids – tiny objects also called asteroids – is both simple and complicated. Unlike stars, whose movement in the sky is apparent, these celestial bodies can “glide” quite actively across the night sky. As Dr. Amy Mainzer from the University of Arizona, director of the NEOWISE asteroid tracking and research program, explained in an interview with tvnmeteo.pl, the object must be captured in motion to make sure that we do not confuse it with something completely different.
– When we first spot what might be a new asteroid, we have no idea what its orbit is or how far away it is. We need to collect enough data to measure these values, she explained. – If we don’t continue tracking the object, we may lose it and never find it again.
This process requires monitoring the asteroid for several nights, which helps determine how it moves around the solar system. Having knowledge about the orbit, the potential discoverer must then check whether he has accidentally found the track of one of the over 1.3 million objects of this type known to science. Cataloging newly discovered celestial bodies is the task of the Minor Planet Center (MPC) at the International Astronomical Union. If there is no celestial body with an identical orbit in its database, we are probably dealing with a new discovery. A confirmed asteroid is designated by the year it was first spotted and a combination of letters and numbers describing the order in which it was discovered.
Read more after logging in
Get access to premium content free and without ads