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Witnessing the destruction of an asteroid

Witnessing the destruction of an asteroid 86

The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is not like the messy debris field in the movie ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. It may contain millions of rocky and metallic objects, but the distances that separate them are vast and collisions are rare.

Witnessing the destruction of an asteroid
When the asteroids break, they leave a telltale trail of debris and dust. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

This is what makes the P / 2016 G1 such an exciting object. Seen through the asteroid belt in early 2016, this object had a strange orbit and a layer of dust that resembled a comet. Through careful analysis of the telescopic images, the scientists identified several showers of debris that shot from its surface, the kind that could only be produced by an impact.

What they found was not a comet, but the immediate consequences of the murder of an asteroid.

By March 6, 2016, an asteroid at least 400 meters in diameter was running its own business when another space rock weighing about 1,000 kilograms hit the largest asteroid at about 18,000 kilometers per hour. This is about five times faster than a bullet fired from a sniper rifle. The projectile was destroyed after impact; The target then split into stages in the coming months before it became unseen.

Without this collision, these two small objects would remain forever anonymous. Instead, scientists got an accidental view of the destructiveness of asteroids, which could help defend the earth against future asteroid hazards. After all, “the best way to see how hard a thing is, is to break it,” he said. Olivier Hainaut, astronomer of the European Southern Observatory and lead author of the study published earlier this year in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Astronomers discovered the P / 2016 G1 with the Pan-Starrs1 telescope, in Hawaii, on AprIil 2016. Stepping back through archived images, astronomers realized that it had been visible the previous month for the first time as a centralized collection of rocky clusters: the fractured remains of the asteroid surrounded by a thin cloud of dust, probably the immediate debris was discarded by the impact.

Over the next few weeks, an expanding ring of debris could also be seen emerging from the object. Computer simulations revealed that this was the beginning of a high rubble cone, a hallmark of an impact event.

After the initial debris cloud was created, the crater process lost energy and subsequent debris flows were more slowly excavated into the new asteroid scar. On Earth, this ring of debris would land around the crater. But on a small, low-gravity asteroid, this ring of debris simply flew into space, expanding as it advanced.

There is no clear date when the asteroid disappeared.

Dr. Hainaut said:

Documenting the disappearance of the P / 2016 G1 was like tracking a drop of milk on your coffee. The pieces scatter and disappear individually. However, by December 2018, the asteroid could no longer be seen.

Although the asteroid may have disappeared, the data collected may be useful in the future. With sufficient warning time, an asteroid heading toward Earth would ideally be deflected by colliding with a spacecraft at remarkable speeds. But an overzealous impact could break an asteroid into fragments that could still disastrously fall to Earth.

Knowing what types of impacts cause deviations and interruptions is essential for protecting the earth from wandering asteroids. That makes the disappearance of the P / 2016 G1 a vital source of information, he said. Megan Bruck Syal, a planetary defense researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who did not participate in the study.

This spectacularly documented event may not be so rare for much longer. Increasingly comprehensive sky sweep surveys, including the Large Synoptic Research Telescope in Chile will capture many of these camera impacts, giving planetary defense researchers more data to study in cutting-edge simulations.

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Space

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 89
Photo: (Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC))

To us, the Sun alone seems perfectly normal, but our solar system is actually a strange exception.

Most stars in the Milky Way galaxy have at least one companion star. In a system 1,800 light-years away, astronomers have finally confirmed the existence of a gas giant planet orbiting stars in a triple star system.

Called KOI-5, the system is located in the constellation Cygnus, and the exoplanet was confirmed ten years after it was first detected by the Kepler space telescope.

In fact, the planet – now known as KOI-5Ab – was discovered by Kepler when it began operations back in 2009.

“KOI-5Ab was dropped because it was difficult and we had thousands of other candidates,” astronomer David Siardi of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute said.

“There were lighter dives than the KOI-5Ab, and every day we learned something new from Kepler, so the KOI-5 was almost forgotten.”

Exoplanet hunters tend to avoid the complexities of multi-star systems; of the more than 4,300 exoplanets confirmed to date, less than 10 percent are multi-star systems, although such systems dominate the galaxy. As a result, little is known about the properties of exoplanets in multi-star systems compared to those orbiting a lone star.

After Kepler’s discovery, Chardy and other astronomers used ground-based telescopes such as the Palomar Observatory, Keck Observatory, and the Gemini North Telescope to study the system. By 2014, they had identified two companion stars, KOI-5B and KOI-5C.

Scientists were able to establish that the planet KOI-5Ab, is a gas giant that is about half the mass of Saturn and 7 times the size of Earth, and is in a very close five-day orbit around KOI-5A. KOI-5A and KOI-5B, both of roughly the same mass as the Sun, form a relatively close binary system with an orbital period of about 30 years.

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 90

A third star, KOI-5C, orbits the binary system at a much greater distance, with a period of about 400 years – slightly longer than Pluto’s 248-year orbit.

“By studying this system in more detail, perhaps we can understand how planets are created in the universe.”

The discovery was announced at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 91
Photo: YouTube

Science can be compared to an artist painting what he has never seen, or to a writer describing other people’s travels: objects that he has never seen, places where he has never been. Sometimes such scientific “arts” turn out to be beautiful and interesting, but most of them will forever remain only theories, because they are beyond human capabilities.

In fact, science has the right only to speculate: how our universe appeared, how old it is, how many stars and other objects it contains.

Universe model

Why the universe does not fit into science 92

How many stars are there in the sky?

With an unarmed eye, a person can see about nine thousand stars in the sky in one cloudless and moonless night. And armed with binoculars or a telescope, much more – up to several million. However, this is much less than their true number in the universe. Indeed, only in our one galaxy (the Milky Way) there are about 400 billion stars. The exact amount, of course, is not known to science. And the visible universe contains about 170 billion galaxies.

It is worth clarifying that scientists can see the universe 46 billion light years deep in all directions. And the visible (observable) universe includes the space accessible to our eyes from the moment of the Big Explosion. In other words, only this (accessible to human perception) space science refers to our universe. Science does not consider everything that follows.

It is believed that there are supposedly a ceptillion (10 to 24 degrees) stars in our universe. These are theoretical calculations based on the approximate size and age of the universe. The origin of the universe is explained by the Big Bang theory. This is why the universe is constantly expanding and the more time passes, the more complex the universe and its components become.

Why the universe does not fit into science 93

It is not entirely correct to consider and perceive this scientific theory “head-on”. Scientists always claim that that explosion was not exactly an explosion, and the point that exploded was not the only one. After all, it was everywhere, because space did not exist then. And in general – everything happened quite differently from what is described in the Big Bang theory, but all other descriptions of the origin of the universe are even more incredible and inaccurate.

Separate but interconnected

That which is beyond the reach of human perception is usually discarded by science, or recognized as non-existent. Recognizing one thing, science does not want to recognize the existence of the other, although everything in our world is interconnected and is not able to exist separately – by itself.

Each object of the universe is a part of it much more than an independent, separate object.

Any person, like any material object of our world, consists of components: organs, cells, molecules, atoms. And each of its constituent parts can represent the whole world. Separate, and at the same time connected with all the others.

However, science, as a rule, perceives all the components of the universe – people, animals, plants, objects, the Earth, the Sun, other planets and stars – as separate subjects, thereby limiting itself.

Why the universe does not fit into science 94

Even what is considered the visible universe, one of the atoms of which could be called our solar system, is not subject to the boundaries of human perception. But perhaps the atom is an exaggeration, and our solar system is not even an atom, but one of its elements!

How, being so far from the truth, can one reason about something with the degree of probability with which science tries to reason about the origin of the universe?

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An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars 95

The red planet sways from side to side like a whirligig when it loses speed. The new study allowed scientists to notice that the poles of Mars deviate slightly from the axis of rotation of the planet. On average, they move 10 cm from the center with a period of 200 days.

Such changes are called the Chandler Oscillations  – after the American astronomer Seth Chandler, who discovered them in 1891. Previously, they were only seen on Earth. It is known that the displacement of the poles of rotation of our planet occurs with a period of 433 days, while the amplitude reaches 15 meters. There is no exact answer why this is happening. It is believed that the fluctuations are influenced by processes in the ocean and the Earth’s atmosphere.

Chandler’s wobbles on Mars are equally perplexing. The authors of the study discovered them by comparing data from 18 years of studying the planet. The information was obtained thanks to three spacecraft that orbit the Red Planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor. 

Since Mars has no oceans, it is likely that the Red Planet’s wobbly rotation is due to changes in atmospheric pressure. This is the first explanation that researchers have shared. In the future, there should be new details about the fluctuations that have so interested the scientific community.

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