Small pieces of the Itokawa asteroid, brought to Earth by a mission of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), have been analyzed by Australian scientists, who have discovered important data that can help in research on planetary defense and potentially dangerous space objects for the our planet.
They examined three fragments collected during the Hayabusa mission, which returned to Earth in June 2010. Although these are very small pieces (smaller than a grain of rice), this was not an obstacle for the research team.
According to the authors, the asteroid, which is two million kilometers from the Earth and is about 500 meters long, is an extremely difficult body to destroy and very resistant to collisions.
By analyzing the impact of tiny particles that left marks on the surface of the grains, the scientists found that the space rock was formed in the early days of the Solar System, about 4.2 billion years ago.
Published this Monday (23) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesthe study also confirms the theory that asteroid Itokawa originated from a larger object that was shattered by a collision, turning into a pile of aggregate fragments.
“This surprisingly long survival time for an asteroid the size of Itokawa is attributed to the shock-absorbing nature that is characteristic of the material that forms this pile of debris,” said study lead author Fred Jourdan, a professor in the School of Earth and Planetary. Sciences at Curtin University, Australia.
“Unlike monolithic asteroids, Itokawa is not formed from a single piece of rock, but belongs to the family of debris piles, which means that it is entirely made up of stones and loose rocks, almost half of which is empty space,” added the teacher.
The study suggests that the durability of celestial bodies of the same type could be much greater than previously thought. Since our Solar System formed about 4.5 billion years ago, more asteroids formed from aggregated fragments could be wandering into the asteroid belt, a region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
“The good news is that we can also use this information to our advantage,” said study co-author Nick Timms, also of Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “If an asteroid is detected too late for a kinetic push, we can use a more aggressive approach, such as a shock wave from a nuclear explosion to push that asteroid pile of rubble off course, and without destroying it.”
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Source: Olhar Digital
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