Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research Uncovers Forces That Hold Gravity-Defying Near-Earth Asteroid Together

15.08.2014

Researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have made a novel discovery that may potentially protect the world from future collisions with asteroids.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have made a novel discovery that may potentially protect the world from future collisions with asteroids.

The team studied near-Earth asteroid 1950 DA and discovered that the body, which rotates so quickly it defies gravity, is held together by cohesive forces called van der Waals, never detected before on an asteroid.

The findings, published in this week's edition of the science journal Nature, have potential implications for defending our planet from a massive asteroid impact.

... more about:
»Asteroid »Earth »Rosetta »Space »collision »fly »gravity »rubble »technique

Previous research has shown that asteroids are loose piles of rubble held together by gravity and friction. However, the UT team found that 1950 DA is spinning so quickly that it defies these forces. Ben Rozitis, a postdoctoral researcher; Eric MacLennan, a doctoral candidate; and Joshua Emery, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, wanted to know what keeps the body from breaking apart.

Looking at thermal images and orbital drift to calculate thermal inertia and bulk density, the team detected the action of cohesive forces in an environment with little gravity.

"We found that 1950 DA is rotating faster than the breakup limit for its density," said Rozitis. "So if just gravity were holding this rubble pile together, as is generally assumed, it would fly apart. Therefore, interparticle cohesive forces must be holding it together."

In fact, the rotation is so fast that at its equator, 1950 DA effectively experiences negative gravity. If an astronaut were to attempt to stand on this surface, he or she would fly off into space unless he or she were somehow anchored.

The presence of cohesive forces has been predicted in small asteroids, but definitive evidence has never been seen before.

The finding provides important information for efforts aimed at stopping an asteroid from crashing into Earth.

"Following the February 2013 asteroid impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia, there is renewed interest in figuring out how to deal with the potential hazard of an asteroid impact," said Rozitis. "Understanding what holds these asteroids together can inform strategies to guard against future impacts."

This research reveals some potential techniques, such as a kinetic impactor which would deploy a massive object on a collision course with the asteroid, could exacerbate the impact's effects. For example, this technique could destabilize the cohesive forces keeping the asteroid together, causing it to break apart into several threatening asteroids headed for Earth.

This may be what occurred with the asteroid P/2013 R3, which was caught by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2013 and 2014 coming undone, possibly due to a collision with a meteor.

"With such tenuous cohesive forces holding one of these asteroids together, a very small impulse may result in a complete disruption," said Rozitis.

The researchers' findings also have implications for space exploration. For example, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft will land on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko's surface and it may find a dusty surface dominated by such cohesive forces.

Contact Information

Whitney Heins
Science Writer
wheins@utk.edu
Phone: 865-974-5460

Whitney Heins | newswise
Further information:
http://www.utk.edu

Further reports about: Asteroid Earth Rosetta Space collision fly gravity rubble technique

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A tale of two pulsars' tails: Plumes offer geometry lessons to astronomers
18.01.2017 | Penn State

nachricht Studying fundamental particles in materials
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

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: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>