There’s no denying that asteroids represent a threat to Earth’s life. A pair of astronomers have proposed two new techniques to help avoid such a disaster. To begin, we should restrict the number of asteroid trips to reduce the number of orbital alterations produced by humans. Two, we should actively regulate asteroids’ placements to ensure that they are placed in orbits that are safe in the long run.
Earth is constantly hit by space rocks. Thankfully, the great majority are little more than meteoroids, small pieces of space junk the size of your hand. The tiniest ones (about the dimensions of the grains of sand) produce brief but spectacular falling “stars” when they hit the atmosphere. As they flash across the sky, the larger ones can dazzle.
Rocks over 20 feet wide scream into Earth’s atmosphere every five years, detonating with the same amount of energy as the nuclear weapon exploded on Hiroshima, Japan. Fortunately, because the majority of these catastrophes occur over the open ocean (which covers 70% of the Earth’s surface), hardly one notices. According to a new study, asteroids large enough to take out entire towns occur every 100 years or so, while dinosaur killers are exceedingly rare, occurring once per 15 million years, ten times more frequently than previously thought.
However, these occurrences do occur, and possible impactors are notoriously difficult to detect. The problem is that asteroids are typically small and non-shiny, making them extremely dull and difficult to see using telescopes. Even if we do see them, estimating their orbits is more difficult. That’s because a variety of factors can impact the track of small, lumpy items like asteroids, including spin speeds, uneven cooling and heating, random encounters with other objects, as well as the gravity of distant planets.
The current technique for preventing asteroids from killing us all is to constantly scan the skies for hazardous asteroids that could potentially collide with Earth’s orbit. According to the thinking, we may launch a mission to divert a huge asteroid if we spot one with the Earth in its crosshairs. So far, no proven Earth killers have been discovered, but that might change at any time, either because we discover a new asteroid or because a natural mechanism transforms an asteroid from a secure orbit to a dangerous one.
However, as a pair of researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Outer Space Institute stated out in the latest conference paper filed to the 7th International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference and submitted to the preprint database arXiv, it isn’t just random natural mechanisms that can severely alter asteroids.