Space pillow. It is almost impossible to destroy an asteroid dangerous for the Earth: why
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A new study has shown that a huge space rock, the size of 3 football fields, is a “rubble pile” and therefore indestructible.
Changing the flight path of an asteroid dangerous to the Earth may be the only way to avoid a planetary catastrophe. Last year, the DART spacecraft already proved that this is possible. But a new study shows that the Itokawa asteroid, thought to be potentially hazardous to Earth, may not be hit by a spacecraft at all and not change its orbit, writes the Daily Mail.
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Scientists from Curtin University, Australia, have presented a new study in which they analyzed rock samples from the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa. These samples were delivered to Earth by the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft back in 2010.
Asteroid Itokawa, which measures approximately 330 meters, which is the size of three football fields, is on average 2 million km from Earth and is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid. That is, it can cause enormous damage to the planet if it falls to Earth. It has an elongated orbit around the Sun and during its movement constantly crosses the orbits of not only the Earth, but also Mars.
According to Fred Jourdan of Curtin University, the Itokawa asteroid is not a solid dense space rock, but is a “rubble pile”. That is, it consists of a large number of stones of different sizes, which are held together by gravity. But half of the asteroid is an internal void, that is, these empty areas are just between the stones.
“The main conclusion that we made is that if Itokawa flies to the Earth, then the asteroid will be very difficult to destroy. That is, we can say that it is a space pillow that has strong shock-absorbing qualities,” says Jourdan.
“This may mean that Itokawa has been calmly enduring various collisions during all this time, and this is due to the shock-absorbing nature of his stones that make up this pile of rubble,” says Jourdan.
The new discovery could threaten the potential use of technologies to destroy or deflect asteroids, such as the DART mission, according to scientists.
“If such piles of rubble can survive for almost the entire history of the solar system, then there are many more of them in space than thought. And if any dangerous space rock flies to Earth, then most likely it will be similar in structure to Itokawa “, – says Jourdan.
According to NASA, on average every 5000 years, an asteroid the size of a football field falls to Earth, which can cause significant damage. And about every million years, a space rock arrives on Earth, which is so huge that it can destroy the entire human civilization.
As Focus already wrote, during a recent study, scientists discovered new unexpected consequences the collision of the DART spacecraft in September last year with the asteroid Dimorph.