Tuesday , July 27 2021

NASA explains why it is important to study Space Rocks



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NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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NASA – logo – National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"data-medium-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/NASA.jpg "data-large-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp -ition / upload / 2011/08 / NASA.jpg "class =" alignleft size-full wp-image-85503″ title=”NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration "src =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/NASA.jpg "alt =" NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Agency "wide =" 200 "height =" 165 "/>Pasadena, CA – NASA says that the entire history of human existence is a small point in the 4.5 billion year history of our solar system. There are no people around to see planets forming and undergoing dramatic changes before settling into their current configuration. To understand what happened before us – before life on Earth and before the Earth itself – scientists must look for clues to that mysterious past.

The instructions come in the form of asteroids, comets and other small objects. Like detectives who filter forensic evidence, scientists carefully examine this small body for insight into our origins.

<img data-attachment-id = "438062" data-permalink = "http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2018/11/11/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks/ nasa-explain-why-of-study-of-space-rock-1 / "data-orig-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA- explain- why-importance-to-learn-Space-Rocks-1.jpg "data-orig-size =" 640,480 "data-comment-opened =" 1 "data-image-meta =" {"aperture": "0", "credit": "", "camera": "", "caption": "", "created_timestamp": "0", "copyright": "", "focal_length": "0", "iso": "0 "," shutter_speed ":" 0 "," title ":" "," orientation ":" 1 "}" data-image-title = "The small world of our solar system helps us trace its history and evolution, including comets. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / UMD) "data-image-description ="

The small world of our solar system helps us trace its history and evolution, including comets. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / UMD)

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The small world of our solar system helps us trace its history and evolution, including comets. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / UMD)

They tell of the times when countless meteors and asteroids showered on planets, burning in the Sun, shot past Neptune's orbit or collided with each other and shattered into smaller bodies.

From afar, comets to asteroids that ended the reign of dinosaurs, every space rock contains clues to epic events that make up the solar system as we know it today – including life on Earth.

Highlights:

›Asteroids, comets and other small objects in space store clues to our origin, but can also cause danger.
›The world is less likely to deliver material to life on Earth.
›Some NASA missions are on their way to this small world, or under development.

NASA's mission to study these "non-planetary planets" helps us understand how planets including Earth are formed, find danger from incoming objects and think about the future of exploration. They have played a key role in the history of our solar system, and reflect how it continues to change today.

"They may not have giant volcanoes, global oceans or dust storms, but the small world can answer the big questions we have about the origins of our solar system," said Lori Glaze, acting director for the Planet Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA has a long history of exploring small bodies, starting with the 1991 Galileo fly from the asteroid Gaspra. The first spacecraft to orbit the asteroid, Shoemaker Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), also succeeded in landing on the Eros asteroid in 2000 and making measurements that were not originally planned.

The Deep Impact mission prompted an investigation into Comet Tempel 1 in 2005 and encouraged scientists to rethink where comets formed. More recent efforts have been built on these successes and will continue to teach us more about our solar system. Here is an overview of what we can learn:

<img data-attachment-id = "438063" data-permalink = "http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2018/11/11/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks/ nasa-explain-why-the-importance-to-study-space-2 / "data-orig-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA- explain- why-importance-to-learn-Space-Rocks-2.jpg "data-orig-size =" 1200,675 "data-comment-opened =" 1 "data-image-meta =" {"aperture": "0 "," credit ":" "," camera ":" "," description ":" "," created_timestamp ":" 0 "," copyright ":" "," focal_length ":" 0 "," iso " : "0", "shutter_speed": "0", "title": "", "orientation": "1"} "data-image-title =" Representation of Ceres' Occator Crater in false color impressions difference in composition the dwarf planet's surface. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA) "description-data ="

The representation of Ceres' Occident Crater in false colors shows differences in the composition of the surface of the dwarf planet. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA)

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The representation of Ceres' Occident Crater in false colors shows differences in the composition of the surface of the dwarf planet. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA)

Planet Building Blocks

Our solar system as we know it today is made up of dust grains – small particles of rock, metal and ice – spinning in the disk around our baby's sun. Most of the material from these disks falls into newborn stars, but a few bits avoid that fate and unite, growing into asteroids, comets and even planets. Much of the leftover food from the process lasts to this day.

The growth of planets from smaller objects is one part of our history that asteroids and comets can help us investigate.

"Asteroids, comets and other small bodies store material from the birth of the solar system. If we want to know where we come from, we have to study these things, "Glaze said.

Two ancient fossils that provide clues to this story are Vesta and Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which recently ended its mission, orbited both of them and showed with certainty that they were not part of an ordinary "asteroid club".

While many asteroids are released from the ruins, the interior of Vesta and Ceres is layered, with the densest material in their core. (In scientific terms, their interiors are said to be "different.") This shows the two bodies are on their way to becoming planets, but their growth is hampered – they never have enough material to be as big as large planets.

But while Vesta is mostly dry, Ceres is wet. It may have 25 percent water, mostly bound in minerals or ice, with the possibility of underground fluids. The presence of ammonia in Ceres is also interesting, because it usually requires cooler temperatures than the current Ceres location.

This shows that dwarf planets can form outside Jupiter and migrate inward, or at least the material inserted that originates farther from the Sun. The mystery of Ceres's origin shows how complex planetary formation can be, and this underlines the intricate history of our solar system.

<img data-attachment-id = "438064" data-permalink = "http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2018/11/11/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks/ presentation1-4 / "data-orig-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks- 3.jpg "data-orig-size =" 1041,773 "data-comment-opened =" 1 "data-image-meta =" {"aperture": "0", "credit": "", "camera" : "", "caption": "", "created_timestamp": "0", "copyright": "", "focal_length": "0", "iso": "0", "shutter_speed": "0", "title": "Presentation1", "orientation": "1"} "data-image-title =" The concept of this artist describes NASA's Psyche mission spacecraft near the mission target, the Psyche asteroid metal. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Arizona State Univ. / Space Systems Loral / Peter Rubin) "data-image-description ="

The concept of this artist depicts the NASA Psychic spacecraft near the mission target, the metal Psyche asteroid. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Arizona State Univ./ Space Systems Loral / Peter Rubin)

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The concept of this artist depicts the NASA Psychic spacecraft near the mission target, the metal Psyche asteroid. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Arizona State Univ./ Space Systems Loral / Peter Rubin)

Even though we can indirectly study the interior of the planet for clues to their origins, because NASA's mission will be carried out on Mars, it is impossible to trace the core of any large enough object in space, including Earth. However, a rare object called Psyche might offer an opportunity to explore the core of the body like a planet without digging.

Psyche's asteroid seems to be an open iron-nickel core from protoplanets – a small world formed at the beginning of our solar system history but never reaching the size of a planet. Like Vesta and Ceres, Psyche sees his path to planethood disrupted. NASA's Psychic Mission, launched in 2022, will help tell the story of planet formation by studying these metal objects in detail.

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Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft facing 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that orbits the Sun 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) outside Pluto, on January 1, 2019. (NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI)

"data-Sedang-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-4-480×240. jpg "data-large-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-4-1280×640 .jpg size-medium "class =" wp-image-438065″ title=”Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft facing 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that orbits the Sun 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) outside Pluto, on January 1, 2019 (NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI) "src =" http : //www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-4-480×240.jpg "alt =" Artist's impression of NASA New Horizon spacecraft meets MU69 in 2014, Kuiper Belt objects that orbit the Sun 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) outside Pluto, on January 1, 2019. (NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI) "width =" 480 "high = "240" = "http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-4-480×240.jpg 480w, http: //www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-4-200×100.jpg 200w, http: / /www.clarksvilleonline .com / wp-content / uploads / 2018/11 / NASA-explain-why -pecially for study-Space-Rocks-4-768×384.jpg 768w, http: // ww.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to -study-Space-Rocks-4-1280×640.jpg 1280w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content / uploads / 2018/11 / NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space- Rocks-4.jpg 1400w "sizes =" (maximum width: 480px) 100vw, 480px "/>

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft facing 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that orbits the Sun 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) outside Pluto, on January 1, 2019. (NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI)

Furthermore, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is currently on its way to a distant object called 2014 MU69, nicknamed "Ultima Thule" by mission. A billion miles farther from the Sun than Pluto, MU69 is a Kuiper Belt resident, an area of ​​ice-rich objects outside Neptune's orbit. Objects like MU69 can represent the most primitive, or unchanging material left in the solar system.

While planets orbit in ellipses around the Sun, MU69 and many other Kuiper Belt objects have very circular orbits, indicating that they have not moved from their original pathway in 4.5 billion years. These objects can represent Pluto's building blocks and other distant ice worlds like that. New Horizons will approach the nearest MU69 on January 1, 2019 – the flight flying the farthest planet in history.

"Ultima Thule is scientifically valuable to understand the origin of our solar system and its planets," said Alan Stern, principal researcher at New Horizons, based at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "It's ancient and pure, and unlike anything we've seen before."

Delivery of Elements of Life

The small world is also likely to be responsible for sowing the Earth with materials for life. Learning how much water they have is proof of how they help fertilize life on Earth.

"The small body is a game changer. They participate in the slow and stable evolution of our solar system from time to time, and affect the planet's atmosphere and opportunities for life. The earth is part of the story, "said NASA chief scientist Jim Green.

<img data-attachment-id = "438066" data-permalink = "http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2018/11/11/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks/ nasa-explain-why-the-importance-to-study-space-5 / "data-orig-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA- explain- why-importance-to-learn-Space-Rocks-5.jpg "data-orig-size =" 800,600 "data-comment-opened =" 1 "data-image-meta =" {"aperture": "0", "credit": "", "camera": "", "caption": "", "created_timestamp": "0", "copyright": "", "focal_length": "0", "iso": "0 "," shutter_speed ":" 0 "," title ":" "," orientation ":" 1 "}" data-image-title = "This" super-resolution "display of the Bennu asteroid was created using eight images obtained by the aircraft NASA's OSIRIS space-REx on October 29, 2018, from a distance of about 205 miles (330 kilometers). (NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona) "data-image-description ="

This "super-resolution" view of Bennu's asteroid was made using eight images obtained by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on October 29, 2018, from a distance of about 205 miles (330 kilometers). (NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona)

"data-medium-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-5-480×360. jpg "data-large-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-5.jpg "class =" size-medium wp-image-438066″ title=”This "super-resolution" view of Bennu's asteroid was made using eight images obtained by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on October 29, 2018, from a distance of about 205 miles (330 kilometers). (NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona) "src =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks -5-480×360.jpg "alt =" This "super-resolution" view of the Bennu asteroid was made using eight images obtained by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on October 29, 2018, from a distance of about 205 miles (330 kilometers). (NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona) "width =" 480 "height =" 360 "srcset =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its -penting-for-study-Ruang-Batuan- 5-480×360.jpg 480w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to- study-Space-Rocks-5-200×150.jpg 200w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks -5-768×576.jpg 768w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-5.jpg 800w "sizes =" (maximum width: 480px) 100vw, 480px "/>

This "super-resolution" view of Bennu's asteroid was made using eight images obtained by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on October 29, 2018, from a distance of about 205 miles (330 kilometers). (NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona)

One example of an asteroid containing the building blocks of life is Bennu, the OSIRIS-REx NASA mission target (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Regolith Explorer Security). Bennu may be loaded with carbon and water molecules, both of which are needed for life as we know it.

When the Earth is formed, and afterwards, things like Bennu rain down and send these materials to our planet. These objects do not have oceans, but water molecules bound in minerals. Up to 80 percent of Earth's water is thought to originate from small bodies such as Bennu. By studying Bennu, we can better understand the types of objects that allow barren young Earth to develop with life.

Bennu probably originated from the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and is thought to have survived a devastating collision that occurred between 800 million and 2 billion years ago. Scientists think a large carbon-rich asteroid was destroyed in thousands of pieces, and Bennu was one of the remnants.


Instead of a solid object, Bennu is considered an "debris heap" of asteroids – a collection of rocks that are released together through gravity and other forces that scientists call "cohesion". OSIRIS-REx, which will arrive at Bennu in early December 2018, after traveling 1.2 billion miles (2 billion kilometers), and will bring back this sample of interesting objects to Earth in a sample capsule back in 2023.

Japan's Hayabusa-2 mission also sees asteroids from the same family that are thought to have sent material for life to Earth. Currently in orbit on the Ryugu asteroid, with a small jump catcher on the surface, the mission will collect samples and return them in a capsule to Earth for analysis at the end of 2020. We will learn a lot comparing Bennu and Ryugu, and understand the similarities and differences between their samples.

Tracer of the Evolution of the Solar System

Most of the material that forms our solar system, including Earth, does not live to tell the story. It falls to the sun or is released outside the range of our most powerful telescope; only a small part forms the planet. But there are some remnants of the rebels from the early days when planetary objects swirled with uncertainty around the Sun.

The most powerful time for the solar system is between 50 and 500 million years after the Sun formed. Jupiter and Saturn, our most massive system giants, rearrange objects around them as their gravity interacts with smaller worlds such as asteroids. Uranus and Neptune may originate closer to the Sun and be kicked out as Jupiter and Saturn move. Saturn, in fact, might have prevented Jupiter from "eating" some terrestrial planets, including the Earth, because of its gravity against Jupiter's movement further towards the Sun.

<img data-attachment-id = "438067" data-permalink = "http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2018/11/11/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks/ nasa-explain-why-it's-important-for-space-study-6 / "data-orig-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA- explain-why-importance-to-learn-Space-Rocks-6.jpg "data-orig-size =" 1088,800 "data-comment-opened =" 1 "data-image-meta =" {"aperture": "0", "credit": "Menchaca; Richard "," camera ":" "," caption ":" "," created_timestamp ":" 1494512794 "," copyright ":" "," focal_length ":" 0 "," iso ":" 0 "," shutter_speed ":" 0 "," title ":" "," orientation ":" 1 "}" data-image-title = "Conceptual image of Lucy's mission to an asteroid Trojan. (NASA / SwRI)" data-image-description = "

Conceptual image of Lucy's mission to the asteroid Trojan. (NASA / SwRI)

"data-medium-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-6-480×353. jpg "data-large-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-6-1088×800 .jpg "class =" size-medium wp-image-438067″ title=”Conceptual image of Lucy's mission to the asteroid Trojan. (NASA / SwRI) "src =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-6-480×353 .jpg "alt =" Conceptual image of Lucy's mission to the asteroid Trojan. (NASA / SwRI) "width =" 480 "height =" 353 "srcset =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to -study-Space-Rocks-6-480×353.jpg 480w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space- Rocks-6-200×147.jpg 200w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-6-768×565 .jpg 768w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-6.jpg 1088w "sizes =" (Max width: 480px) 100vw, 480px "/>

Conceptual image of Lucy's mission to the asteroid Trojan. (NASA / SwRI)

An asteroid herd called the Trojans can help sort out the details of the turbulent period. The Trojans consist of two small groups of bodies that share Jupiter's orbit around the Sun, with one group in front of Jupiter and the other behind. But some Trojans seem to be made of materials that are different from others, as indicated by their varied colors.

Some are much redder than others and may originate outside the orbit of Neptune, while the grayer may have formed closer to the Sun. The main theory is that when Jupiter moves for a long time, these objects are corrected into Lagrange points – places where the gravity of Jupiter and the Sun creates a place where asteroids can be captured. The diversity of the Trojans, scientists say, reflects Jupiter's journey to its present location.

"They are the remains of what happened at the last moment Jupiter moved," said Hal Levison, a researcher at the Southwest Research Institute.

Lucy NASA's mission, launched in October 2021, will send a spacecraft to the Trojans for the first time, thoroughly investigating six Trojans (three asteroids in each herd). For Levison, the mission's principal investigator, spacecraft will test ideas that he and his colleagues have been working on for decades about rebuilding Jupiter's solar system. "What's really interesting is what we didn't expect," he said.

Process in the Evolving Solar System

After the sun sets, under the right conditions, you may see sunlight scattered in the ecliptic field, a region of the sky where planets orbit. This is because the sun's rays are scattered by the remaining dust from collisions of small objects such as comets and asteroids. Scientists call this phenomenon "zodiac light", and that is an indication that our solar system is still active. Zodiac dust around other stars shows that they can also protect the active planetary system.

Dust from small bodies has an important role on our planet in particular. About 100 tons of meteorite and dust material falls on Earth every day. Some of them come from comets, whose activities have direct implications for Earth's evolution. As the comet approaches the Sun and experiences its heat, the gases in the comet bubble rise and carry dusty material from the comet – including materials for life. NASA's Stardust spacecraft flies with Comet 81P / Wild and discovers that comet dust contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of life.

<img data-attachment-id = "438068" data-permalink = "http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2018/11/11/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks/ nasa-explain-why-it's important-for-space-study-7 / "data-orig-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA- explain-why-importance-to-learn-Space-Rocks-7.jpg "data-orig-size =" 1200,675 "data-comment-opened =" 1 "data-image-meta =" {"aperture": "0", "credit": "", "camera": "", "description": "", "created_timestamp": "0", "copyright": "", "focal_length": "0", " iso ":" 0 "," shutter_speed ":" 0 "," title ":" "," orientation ":" 1 "}" data-image-title = "This view shows Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen oleh kamera sudut-lebar OSIRIS pada pesawat ruang angkasa Rosetta ESA pada 29 September 2016, ketika Rosetta berada di ketinggian 14 mil (23 kilometer). (ESA / Rosetta / MPS untuk Tim OSIRIS MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA) "data-g ambar-deskripsi ="

Pandangan ini menunjukkan Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko seperti yang terlihat oleh kamera sudut-lebar OSIRIS pada pesawat ruang angkasa Rosetta ESA pada 29 September 2016, ketika Rosetta berada di ketinggian 14 mil (23 kilometer). (ESA / Rosetta / MPS untuk Tim OSIRIS MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA)

"data-medium-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-7-480×270. jpg "data-large-file =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-7.jpg "class =" size-medium wp-image-438068″ title=”Pandangan ini menunjukkan Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko seperti yang terlihat oleh kamera sudut-lebar OSIRIS pada pesawat ruang angkasa Rosetta ESA pada 29 September 2016, ketika Rosetta berada di ketinggian 14 mil (23 kilometer). (ESA / Rosetta / MPS untuk Tim OSIRIS MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA) "src =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11 /NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-7-480×270.jpg "alt =" Pandangan ini menunjukkan Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko seperti yang terlihat oleh kamera sudut-lebar OSIRIS pada pesawat ruang angkasa ESA Rosetta pada 29 September 2016, ketika Rosetta berada di ketinggian 14 mil (23 kilometer). (ESA / Rosetta / MPS untuk OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA) "width =" 480 "height =" 270 "srcset =" http://www.clarksvilleonline.com /wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-7-480×270.jpg 480w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/ uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-7-200×113.jpg 200w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11 /NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-7-768×432.jpg 768w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains- why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-7.jpg 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 480px) 100vw, 480px" />

This view shows Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen by the OSIRIS wide-angle camera on ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft on September 29, 2016, when Rosetta was at an altitude of 14 miles (23 kilometers). (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

Occasional outbursts of gas and dust observed in comets indicate activity on or near their surfaces, such as landslides. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, which completed its exploration of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2016, delivered unprecedented insights about cometary activity.

Among the changes in the comet, the spacecraft observed a massive cliff collapse, a large crack get bigger and a boulder move. “We discovered that boulders the size of a large truck could be moved across the comet’s surface a distance as long as one-and-a-half football fields,” Ramy El-Maarry, a member of the U.S. Rosetta science team from the University of Colorado, Boulder, said in 2017.

Comets also influence planetary motion today. As Jupiter continues to fling comets outward, it moves inward ever so slightly because of the gravitational dance with the icy bodies.

Neptune, meanwhile, throws comets inward and in turn gets a tiny outward push. Uranus and Saturn are also moving outward very slowly in this process.

“Right now we’re talking about teeny amounts of motions because there’s not a lot of mass left,” Levison said.

Fun fact: The spacecraft that has seen the most comets is NASA’s Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), most famous for its study of the Sun. SOHO has seen the Sun “eat” thousands of comets, which means that these small worlds were spraying material in the inner part of the solar system on their journey to become the Sun’s dinner.

<img data-attachment-id="438069" data-permalink="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2018/11/11/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks-8/" data-orig-file="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-8.jpg" data-orig-size="1200,602" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"1"}" data-image-title="This image portrays a comet as it approaches the inner solar system. Light from the Sun warms the comet’s core, or nucleus, an object so small it cannot be seen at this scale. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)" data-image-description="

This image portrays a comet as it approaches the inner solar system. Light from the Sun warms the comet’s core, or nucleus, an object so small it cannot be seen at this scale. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

" data-medium-file="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-8-480×241.jpg" data-large-file="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-8.jpg" class="size-medium wp-image-438069″ title=”This image portrays a comet as it approaches the inner solar system. Light from the Sun warms the comet&#39;s core, or nucleus, an object so small it cannot be seen at this scale. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)" src="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-8-480×241.jpg" alt="This image portrays a comet as it approaches the inner solar system. Light from the Sun warms the comet&#39;s core, or nucleus, an object so small it cannot be seen at this scale. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)" width="480" height="241" srcset="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-8-480×241.jpg 480w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-8-200×100.jpg 200w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-8-768×385.jpg 768w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-8.jpg 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 480px) 100vw, 480px" />

This image portrays a comet as it approaches the inner solar system. Light from the Sun warms the comet’s core, or nucleus, an object so small it cannot be seen at this scale. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Hazards to Earth

Asteroids can still pose an impact hazard to the planets, including our own.

While the Trojans are stuck being Jupiter groupies, Bennu, the target of the OSIRIS-REx mission, is one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids to Earth that is currently known, even though its odds of colliding with Earth are still relatively small; scientists estimate Bennu has a 1?in?2,700 chance of impacting our planet during one of its close approaches to Earth in the late 22nd century.

Right now, scientists can predict Bennu’s path quite precisely through the year 2135, when the asteroid will make one of its close passes by Earth. Close observations by OSIRIS-REx will get an even tighter handle on Bennu’s journey, and help scientists working on safeguarding our planet against hazardous asteroids to better understand what it would take to deflect one on an impact trajectory.

“We’re developing a lot of technologies for operating with precision around these kinds of bodies, and targeting locations on their surfaces, as well as characterizing their overall physical and chemical properties. You would need this information if you wanted to design an asteroid deflection mission,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission, based at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Another upcoming mission that will test a technique for defending the planet from naturally occurring impact hazards is NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which will attempt to change a small asteroid’s motion. How? Kinetic impact — in other words, collide something with it, but in a more precise and controlled way than nature does it.

DART’s target is Didymos, a binary asteroid composed of two objects orbiting each other. The larger body is about half a mile (800 meters) across, with a small moonlet that is less than one-tenth of a mile (150 meters) wide. An asteroid this size could result in widespread regional damage if one were to impact Earth.

DART will deliberately crash itself into the moonlet to slightly change the small object’s orbital speed.

Telescopes on Earth will then measure this change in speed by observing the new period of time it takes the moonlet to complete an orbit around the main body, which is expected to be a change of less than a fraction of one percent. But even that small of change could be enough to make a predicted impactor miss Earth in some future impact scenario. The spacecraft, being built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, is scheduled for launch in spring-summer 2021.

Didymos and Bennu are just two of the almost 19,000 known near-Earth asteroids. There are over 8,300 known near-Earth asteroids the size of the moonlet of Didymos and larger, but scientists estimate that about 25,000 asteroids in that size range exist in near-Earth space. The space telescope helping scientists discover and understand these kinds of objects, including potential hazards, is called NEOWISE (which stands for NearEarth Object Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer)

“For most asteroids, we know little about them except for their orbit and how bright they look. With NEOWISE, we can use the heat emitted from the objects to give us a better assessment of their sizes,” said Amy Mainzer, principal investigator of NEOWISE, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “That’s important because asteroid impacts can pack quite a punch, and the amount of energy depends strongly on the size of the object.”

<img data-attachment-id="438070" data-permalink="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2018/11/11/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks/nasa-explains-why-its-important-to-study-space-rocks-9/" data-orig-file="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-9.jpg" data-orig-size="1200,675" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"1"}" data-image-title="This artist’s concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. In its NEOWISE mission it finds and characterizes asteroids. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)" data-image-description="

This artist’s concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. In its NEOWISE mission it finds and characterizes asteroids. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

" data-medium-file="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-9-480×270.jpg" data-large-file="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-9.jpg" class="size-medium wp-image-438070″ title=”This artist&#39;s concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. In its NEOWISE mission it finds and characterizes asteroids. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)" src="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-9-480×270.jpg" alt="This artist&#39;s concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. In its NEOWISE mission it finds and characterizes asteroids. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)" width="480" height="270" srcset="http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-9-480×270.jpg 480w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-9-200×113.jpg 200w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-9-768×432.jpg 768w, http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NASA-explains-why-its-important-to-study-Space-Rocks-9.jpg 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 480px) 100vw, 480px" />

This artist’s concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. In its NEOWISE mission it finds and characterizes asteroids. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Small Worlds as Pit Stops, Resources for Future Exploration

There are no gas stations in space yet, but scientists and engineers are already starting to think about how asteroids could one day serve as refueling stations for spacecraft on the way to farther-flung destinations. These small worlds might also help astronauts restock their supplies. For example, Bennu likely has water bound in clay minerals, which could perhaps one day be harvested for hydrating thirsty space travelers.

“In addition to science, the future will indeed be mining,” Green said. “The materials in space will be used in space for further exploration.”


How did metals get on asteroids? As they formed, asteroids and other small worlds collected heavy elements forged billions of years ago. Iron and nickel found in asteroids were produced by previous generations of stars and incorporated in the formation of our solar system.

These small bodies also contain heavier metals forged in stellar explosions called supernovae. The violent death of a star, which can lead to the creation of a black hole, spreads elements heavier than hydrogen and helium throughout the universe. These include metals like gold, silver and platinum, as well as oxygen, carbon and other elements we need for survival.

Another kind of cataclysm — the collision of supernova remnants called neutron stars — can also create and spread heavy metals. In this way small bodies are also forensic evidence of the explosions or collisions of long-dead stars.

Because of big things, we now have a lot of very small things. And from small things, we get big clues about our past — and possibly resources for our future. Exploring these objects is important, even if they aren’t planets.

They small worlds, after all.

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Asteroid, Asteroids, Bennu, Ceres, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Comet Tempel 1, Comets, Dwarf Planet, earth, Gaspra, Gravity, Jupiter, Kuoper Belt, Mars, NASA, NASA&#39;s Dawn Spacecraft, NASA&#39;s Deep Impact Spacecraft, NASA&#39;s Galileo spacecraft, NASA&#39;s InSight mission, NASA&#39;s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA&#39;s Lucy Mission, NASA&#39;s NEOWISE Mission, NASA&#39;s New Horizons Spacecraft, NASA&#39;s Psyche Mission, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Near Earth Asteroid, Neptune, Orbit, OSIRIS-REx, Pasadena CA, Planets, Pluto, Saturn, Solar System, Space, Sun, Trojan Asteroids, Ultima Thule, Uranus, Vesta





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