An international team of astronomers has completed the largest-ever study of large asteroids that are relatively close to our planet. Scientists analyzed the trajectory and speed of movement of celestial bodies and estimated the likelihood of their collision with the Earth in the foreseeable future.
Asteroids are space objects that are fragments from the collapsed planets or left over from the formation of the solar system. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from small gravitational aggregates to gigantic objects that can be over 100 kilometers in diameter. Some of these objects may pose a threat to life on Earth.
The astronomical team’s study has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal and posted on the arXiv preprint site. For analysis, the team took data on asteroids approaching Earth at least one kilometer wide. Such objects are considered the most dangerous for life on Earth, although impacts on our planet by smaller asteroids, of course, pose a considerable threat.
Scientists have come to the conclusion that none of the studied objects poses a serious threat to us over the next century. However, outside of these time frames, orbits become more difficult to predict. The movement of celestial bodies is influenced by many factors, and not all of them can now be taken into account. For example, just a small difference in the amount of heat that an asteroid receives from the Sun, or an unexpected gravitational “push” from Jupiter can significantly change the asteroid’s trajectory.
Therefore, as part of a large-scale study, astronomers conducted a series of computer simulations, which allowed them to map the maximum number of potential orbital paths currently possible, taking into account various uncertain factors. The basis for modeling, of course, was the already established data on the current positions in orbit and the velocities of asteroids.
A total of 28 candidates were identified for a “non-zero probability” of a collision with the Earth. This means that they will approach the Earth at a distance less than the distance from the Earth to the Moon. However, astronomers have assured that none of these objects will collide with our planet in the next thousand years. However, the team urges to pay attention to potentially dangerous objects.
Asteroid 7482 is recognized as the most dangerous of them. Scientists believe that it will spend a significant amount of time near the Earth over the next millennium. This does not mean that it will necessarily collide with our planet, but the probability of a collision after a thousand years is high. The researchers also identified asteroid 143651, dangerous in that its orbit is very chaotic – at the moment it is impossible to predict its exact position even several decades in advance.
Despite the fact that the probability of a collision with an asteroid in the coming years is minimal, scientists continue to work on improving the system for detecting and preventing a collision with the Earth. They are developing new methods for detecting asteroids and improving warning systems for possible threats. In addition, many countries have already established programs to study asteroids and develop methods of protection against them.