Collisions in the Asteroid Belt result in the asteroids being completely destroyed and shattered into countless pieces. Computer simulations predict that most of these fragments will eventually fall into the Sun. Some of them, however, will hit the Earth after millions of years as meteorites. It is possible that this could also occur much earlier. In certain positions in the Asteroid Belt, the orbiting time of an object around the sun is a multiple of the orbit of the giant planet Jupiter. The so-called orbital resonance can lead to a disruption in the object’s orbit. It can change the orbit so much that the object would cross the Earth’s orbit and collide with the Earth. Up until today, when this might occur has only been theoretically calculated. But, a new measurement method developed by a research team at the Institute for Isotope Geology at ETH Zurich can now bring more certainty to the subject. The team has established that it could take just a few hundred thousand years for such an object to collide with our planet.
Concentrations of noble gases tell the travel time of an asteroid
Collisional fragments from asteroids in space are constantly being hit by cosmic radiation. This creates noble gases from nuclear reactions. These gases do not enter into any further chemical reactions. Therefore, during the entire duration of the radiation, i.e. the travel time of the fragment in space, they accumulate in the fragment. After measuring the concentration of these socalled cosmogenic inert gases, the travel time from original body to Earth can be calculated. The higher the concentration, the longer the meteorite was underway.
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