According to new research analyzing dust particles collected from ancient rocks, an asteroid named Itokawa has been identified as a potential hazard to Earth.
At 330 meters in diameter, Itokawa is the first asteroid ever sampled by a space mission. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its Hayabusa 1 probe in 2003 to study Itokawa, and managed to return About a milligram of stuff taken from the surface of the asteroid returns to Earth seven years later.
Now, an international team of researchers led by Curtin University in Australia has studied three dust particles from the sample to estimate Itokawa’s age and disposal. Argon dating revealed that the asteroid is more than 4.2 billion years old, and has been described as having a pillow-like structure. The team discovers that Itokawa is older and tougher than previously thought.
“Unlike homogeneous asteroids, Itokawa is not a single mass of rock, but rather belongs to the rubble mound family which means it is made entirely of boulders and loose rock, about half of which is empty space,” said Fred Jordan, lead author of the paper. published In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Professor of Geochemistry at Curtin University, V.A statment.
The gaps make rubble pile asteroids good at absorbing shock from collisions. “We found Itokawa is like a giant space pillow, and it’s hard to destroy,” Jordan added. Itokawa was originally formed from an ancient monolithic asteroid that was shattered into pieces after a violent impact. Bits of leftover rock and dust coalesced into a pile of rubble under the influence of gravitational forces to form the Itokawa Formation.
“Now that we know that they can survive in the solar system for almost all of its history, they should be much more abundant in the asteroid belt than previously thought, so there is a greater chance that if a large asteroid were hurtling toward Earth, it would be so,” Nick Thames said. Co-author of Paper and Geology Professor also from Curtin University: “a pile of rubble.”
He believes that studying these types of space rocks in more detail will help space agencies around the world develop strategies to prevent potential collisions. Since Itokawa would be difficult to destroy, creating a diversion might be a better way to steer him off the ground.
“The good news is that we can also use this information to our advantage — if an asteroid is detected too late for kinetic propulsion, then we can use a more aggressive approach such as using the shockwave of a nearby nuclear explosion to push the debris pile asteroid off course without destroying it.”
Last year, NASA prover It was possible to hit an asteroid and change its orbit using kinetic forcing in the DART mission. Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer, who helped lead the DART mission, previously said log that a potentially dangerous asteroid would need to be propelled about 8,000 miles to move it safely beyond Earth’s radius and out of the danger zone. “It could easily be achieved a year or two in advance,” he said. ®