Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA and NAU researchers welcome unexpected asteroid findings

20.06.2014

What seemed to be rock-solid assumptions about the nature of small asteroids may end in collections of rubble or even a cloud of dust, but in such findings lies the lure of the unexpected.

Northern Arizona University researchers David Trilling and Michael Mommert, while playing a well-defined role in the NASA Asteroid Initiative, are beginning to wonder if they have found a separate path of investigation.


An artist's conception of two possible views of asteroid 2011 MD. (Image courtesy NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

The two researchers presented their findings about asteroid 2011 MD on Thursday during a NASA event updating progress on the path to capturing a small asteroid and relocating it for a closer look by astronauts in the 2020s.

The job of Trilling and Mommert was to use the infrared capabilities of the Spitzer Space Telescope to determine the size of 2011 MD, which needs to be within a narrow range for the mission to succeed. Trilling, an associate professor, explained that using infrared light is the most accurate way to determine an asteroid’s size because visible light through a traditional telescope fails to distinguish a small, highly reflective asteroid from a large one with little reflectivity.

... more about:
»Arizona »Asteroid »Mars »NASA »Space »Telescope »capturing

At around 6 meters in diameter, 2011 MD is just right. But that’s not the whole story.

“People have assumed that small asteroids are debris from collisions of larger asteroids, so those really small guys would be just single slabs of rock flying in space,” said Mommert, a post-doctoral researcher. “But we found that this one is 65 percent empty.”

The findings, which suggest a flying cluster of rocks or a cloud of dust with a solid rock at its nucleus, are similar to observations the NAU researchers published earlier this year of yet another asteroid, 2009 BD.

Trilling said long-held assumptions are yielding to something “weirder and more exotic. The first time you see it, you think, ‘Well, that’s just an anomaly.’ But two out of two, and you start to think that maybe the small ones really don’t look like everyone thought.”

The latest findings appear online today in Astrophysical Journal Letters, coinciding with the NASA presentation. And while NASA seeks to use the asteroid mission to test the technologies and capabilities needed to send astronauts to Mars, Trilling and Mommert are setting their sights elsewhere.

“Now we can go back and propose some more observation time just for the science investigation,” Trilling said. “Now we want to learn something more about the universe.”

Mommert said this is a prime opportunity to add data to a field—the study of small asteroids—that is sparsely populated.

“It’s a field that hasn’t been studied a lot because it’s really difficult to observe them and derive their physical properties,” he said. “The density of 99.9 percent of all asteroids is unknown.” He and Trilling have now added two to a single-digit list.

As far as 2011 MD is concerned, NASA will have to be satisfied with the information compiled by the full team, which includes NAU, the University of Hawaii and a number of other NASA and affiliated labs. The asteroid is about to disappear behind the sun, at least from Earth’s perspective, for the next seven years, and will not be observable again before the spacecraft to retrieve it would have to be launched.

Eric Dieterle | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://news.nau.edu/nasa-nau-researchers-welcome-unexpected-asteroid-findings/#.U6QFI2GKDct

Further reports about: Arizona Asteroid Mars NASA Space Telescope capturing

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Winds a quarter the speed of light spotted leaving mysterious binary systems
29.04.2016 | University of Cambridge

nachricht Possible Extragalactic Source of High-Energy Neutrinos
28.04.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny microbots that can clean up water

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.

Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...

Im Focus: ORNL researchers discover new state of water molecule

Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...

Im Focus: Bionic Lightweight Design researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute at Hannover Messe 2016

Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid

Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...

Im Focus: New world record for fullerene-free polymer solar cells

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). This work is about avoiding costly and unstable fullerenes.

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin glass is up and coming

As one of the leading R&D partners in the development of surface technologies and organic electronics, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP will be exhibiting its recent achievements in vacuum coating of ultra-thin glass at SVC TechCon 2016 (Booth 846), taking place in Indianapolis / USA from May 9 – 13.

Fraunhofer FEP is an experienced partner for technological developments, known for testing the limits of new materials and for optimization of those materials...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The “AC21 International Forum 2016” is About to Begin

27.04.2016 | Event News

Soft switching combines efficiency and improved electro-magnetic compatibility

15.04.2016 | Event News

Grid-Supportive Buildings Give Boost to Renewable Energy Integration

12.04.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Winds a quarter the speed of light spotted leaving mysterious binary systems

29.04.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Fiber optic biosensor-integrated microfluidic chip to detect glucose levels

29.04.2016 | Health and Medicine

A cell senses its own curves: New research from the MBL Whitman Center

29.04.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>