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 Knots in chaotic waves
29.07.2016 | University of Bristol

nachricht International team of scientists unveils fundamental properties of spin Seebeck effect
29.07.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Self-assembling nano inks form conductive and transparent grids during imprint

Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.

To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...

Im Focus: The Glowing Brain

A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology

On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...

Im Focus: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Vortex laser offers hope for Moore's Law

29.07.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology

29.07.2016 | Life Sciences

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>