There are more asteroids out there than we thought.
New count doubles the rocks in asteroid belt.
There are twice as many asteroids between Mars and Jupiter as previously believed, according to the latest study. But the probability of a stray one colliding with Earth remains negligible.
Edward Tedesco of US research company TerraSystems Inc.and Francois-Xavier Désert of the Astrophysical Laboratory in Grenoble, France, found that there are between 1.1 million and 1.9 million asteroids swarming round the ’main asteroid belt’1.
If stray asteroids do end up on a collision path with Earth they could be deflected by changing the amount of sunlight they reflect, a second study has suggested3. When an unevenly heated body re-radiates heat, it alters the momentum of an object - this is called the Yarkovsky effect. This could be used to deflect an asteroid slightly in its orbit, according to Joseph Spitale, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona.
But executing this deflection might be easier said than done. Spitale suggests coating the asteroid with a blanket of dirt 1 centimetre deep to change its surface heat conductivity, or using a small amount of explosive to modify the surface. "Their precise implementation is open to debate," he says.
MEERA LOUIS | © Nature News Service
Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1
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