The astronomer suggests it’s time to start looking toward the sun for near-Earth asteroids

The astronomer suggests it’s time to start looking toward the sun for near-Earth asteroids

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Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy, published a Perspective article in the journal Science This suggests that it’s time for space science to take a closer look at near-Earth objects (NEOs) that lie in the direction of the Sun. In his work, he states that the technology now exists to seek and find such NEOs, at least during twilight hours.

As Sheppard notes, when the sky is not flooded with light from the sun, most of the time the view of space is focused on the dark night sky. As a result, space scientists have ignored the NEOs orbiting between Earth and the Sun. And that could cause problems as one or more of them could be on a path that will cause them to fall to earth.

Of course, scientists don’t completely ignore NEOs that exist in the sun’s glare. Sheppard notes that many of these have been recently discovered. But he says more studies like this are needed to learn more about them. He points out that one team recently discovered an asteroid with an orbit inside the orbit of Venus, and another team has the shortest trip around the sun. He also notes that new facilities have the skills needed to study such NEOs, such as the Zwicky Transient Facility in the US and the NSF Blanco 4-meter facility in Chile. The latter even has a Dark Energy Camera that can be pointed closer to the sun.

NEOs orbiting the Sun within Earth’s orbit have been categorized based on their position in the orbit – for example, if they are within the orbit of Venus, they are called Vatiras. Additionally, Sheppard notes that their numbers remain relatively constant, which is somewhat surprising. Based on computer models and the number of such objects hitting the Earth, the Moon or other celestial bodies, their numbers should decrease. That they aren’t suggests they’re being replenished somehow. He believes that efforts should be made to find out where these other NEOs are coming from and why.


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More information:
Scott S. Sheppard, In the Sunlight, Science (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abj9820

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Citation: Astronomer Suggests It’s Time to Look for Near-Earth Asteroids Heading towards the Sun (2022, July 22) Retrieved July 23, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-astronomer- near-earth-asteroiden-sonne.html

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