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Witnessing the destruction of an asteroid

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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Elon Musk: ‘I will take a million people to Mars by 2050’

Elon musk, the tycoon and businessman, has surprised once again by tweeting that he will take a million people to Mars by 2050.

In several tweets released on Thursday night, the CEO of Spacex, the company that develops cutting-edge rockets, disclosed more details of its plan to colonize Mars.

As previously indicated, Musk said that in theory, 1,000 spaceships could possibly carry 100,000 people in each orbital synchronization of Earth with Mars.

Elon Musk: «I will take a million people to Mars by 2050»
Artistic representation of a city on Mars. Credit: Max Horbatiuk / artstation.com

According to Musk, the ships would depart from Earth following an orbit in a period of 30 days, taking advantage of the moment when the Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, that is every 26 months.

Musk imagines that these ships will depart from Earth’s orbit for a period of 30 days, the time window when Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, every 26 months.

One million people to Mars

One of the users of Twitter asked Musk, if he thinks he could take a million people to Mars, taking into account the equivalence of years and possible trips; Musk simply answered with a “yes”.

Musk said he will need his rockets to have a large load capacity to meet the goal of building a colony on Mars or on another planet.

Calculations indicate that each ship could support more than 100 tons per flight, resulting in the need that each ship might need one megaton per year in orbit, Musk indicated.

But overcoming the difficult and long journey, and once humans reach the red planet, Musk says that the work will begin.

Musk tweeted:

There will be many jobs to do. ”

Although for now, everything is based on theories and calculations, the engineers of Spacex They must work hard in these missing decades to achieve Elon Musk’s dream goal: colonize Mars.

Source: cnet


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‘A world with two stars’: a teenager discovers an unusual planet while doing internships at NASA

A 17-year-old teenager from New York (USA) discovered a planet while searching for stars as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the space agency reported this week.

Wolf Cukier, a junior in high school, had received the task of examining variations in the brightness of the stars captured by the Traffic Exoplanet Inspection Satellite (TESS). While exploring a star system located 1,300 light years from Earth, he observed what appeared to be a slight spot on one of the suns of the system called TOI 1338.

“At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet, ”said Cukier.

“The planet blocked the light of those two stars, which caused a small decrease in the amount of light that reached the telescope. That was what I noticed at the beginning, ”he explained later to CBS.

Difficult to detect

Once he communicated the discovery to his mentors, they spent several weeks verifying his observation. They finally concluded that what he had discovered was a planet 6.9 times larger than ours that orbits around two stars, in what is known as a circumbinary planet.

Because these binary stars orbit each other every 15 days, it was not an easy task to distinguish the transit events from the only known planet in such a system, dubbed TOI 1338-b. Planets that orbit two stars are harder to detect than those that orbit only one.

In this case, the largest star is approximately 10% larger than our Sun, while the smallest, approximately one third of that mass, is colder and dimmer.

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Mars is losing its water much faster than previously thought

It turns out that Mars is losing its water much faster than previously thought. It is not clear if there will be any water left when the eventual human colonization of the Red Planet is undertaken.

On January 13, 2020, NASA proudly announced that it had finally selected 13 men and women, some of whom would fly to the moon and / or Mars, as part of the Artemis Program in the 2030s.

Meanwhile, an article has been published in the Science journal that the Martian colonists will have serious problems, combined with deadly space radiation and unresolved difficulties in maintaining the life of the station.

The survival ob the Red Planet is also related to water. In most cases, Mars water is in the form of ice and is not deep below the surface, but is mostly preserved in the form of ice caps at the poles. However, even there, it constantly evaporates and goes into space.

Scientists have known about this evaporation before, but it has recently turned out to be much faster than expected.

Martian Polar Cap

According to most projects, Martian colonists have to extract water from these ice caps, but when it comes time for them to be on Mars, there may no longer be any water on the planet. What will happen to the colonists? They will not be able to live long without water even if they process their urine.

Researchers led by Frank Montmesin, a scientist at the French University of Paris-Sackle, understand this threat by examining data from the Martian atmosphere over the past two years. This data is obtained from the Trace Gas Orbiter apparatus flying in orbit on the Red Planet.

It turns out that the upper atmosphere of Mars contains much more water vapor than the planet’s surface, about 10-100 times more than expected. The difference in values ​​depends on the position of the planet. Particularly rapid evaporation occurs during the Martian perihelion, when the planet is closest to the Sun.

Mars has low gravity, so it is not surprising that residual water quickly evaporates from its surface. At the same time, when getting into the upper atmosphere, under the influence of solar ultraviolet radiation, water vapor decomposes into oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which allows it to leave the Martian atmosphere even faster.

For how long Mars will have water under these conditions is still unknown. Now, however, future colonists will have to consider this Martian anomaly as well.

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