Destroyed observatory gives final warning for asteroids after fatal collapse : ScienceAlert

Destroyed observatory gives final warning for asteroids after fatal collapse : ScienceAlert

After collapse to pieces in December 2020, the mighty Arecibo Observatory has one last parting gift for humanity — and it’s a doozy.

Using data collected by Arecibo between December 2017 and December 2019, scientists have released the largest radar-based near-Earth report asteroids ever published.

The report, published Sept. 22 in The Planetary Science Magazinecontains detailed observations of 191 near-Earth asteroids, including nearly 70 that are considered “potentially dangerous” – that is, large asteroids with orbits that put them within 4.65 million miles (7.5 million kilometers) of Soilor about 20 times the average distance between the Earth and the moon.

Fortunately, none of these newly described asteroids pose an immediate threat to Earth; according to NASA, our planet is safe from deadly asteroid impacts for at least the next 100 years.

However, scientists still pay close attention to these kinds of objects near Earth in case their orbits change by a fluke of nature, for example a bump from another asteroid – putting them on a collision course with Earth.

The new report also highlighted several asteroids deemed suitable for future research, including an eccentric space object called 2017 YE5 – an ultra-rare “equal mass” binary asteroid, made of two nearly identical rocks that constantly orbit each other.

(Each of the rocks is estimated to be between 2,600 and 2,950 feet or 800 to 900 meters in diameter).

The asteroid’s high radar reflectivity may indicate an abundance of water ice beneath its surface, potentially making it a never-before-seen class of icy, equal-mass, near-Earth asteroid, the researchers wrote.

This new “treasure house” of data will allow scientists to better measure the shapes, sizes and spin periods of these asteroids, which are crucial metrics for assessing the potential risks the asteroids could pose to our planet, study lead author Anne Virkkia researcher at the Department of Physics at the University of Helsinki in Finland, said in a statement.

“The amount of valuable data collected is unique, and these results could not have been achieved with any other existing facility,” study co-author Flavane Vendittiahead of Arecibo’s Planetary Radar Science Group, added.

The Arecibo Observatory was built in Puerto Rico in 1963 and became the world’s largest and most powerful radio telescope. His iconic 305-meter wide telescope dish became world famous in the 1990s after being featured in films such as Contact (1997) and Golden Eye (1995).

By this time, the observatory was already known in the scientific community for its rays humanity’s first message to aliens in space in 1974.

More recently, Arecibo’s observations of asteroids played a direct role in planning NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, in which scientists crashed a spacecraft into the near-Earth asteroid Dimorphos and changed its orbital time by 32 minutes.

Arecibo’s career ended abruptly in December 2020 after two critical support cables snapped, leading to the telescope’s complete collapse.

In October 2022, the National Science Foundation – which owns the site on which Arecibo was built – announced that the telescope will not be replaced or repaired, much to the dismay of scientists and space enthusiasts around the world.

Researchers are still analyzing a backlog of data from Arecibo, the team noted — so the world’s most famous dead telescope may have even more scientific gifts to offer us from beyond the grave in the coming years.

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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.

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