After collapsing and collapsing in December 2020, the mighty Arecibo observatory offers humanity one last parting gift.
Using data collected by Arecibo between December 2017 and December 2019, scientists have released the largest near-Earth asteroid radar report ever published.
Report published on September 22 in the journal planetary sciencedetailed observations of 191 near-Earth asteroids, including about 70 considered “dangerous”, that is, large asteroids whose orbits bring them closer to Earth at a distance of 4.65 million miles (7.5 million kilometers), which is about 20 times average distance. Earth and Moon.
Fortunately, none of these newly described asteroids pose an immediate threat to Earth; According to NASA, our planet will be safe from deadly asteroid impacts for at least the next 100 years.
However, scientists still pay close attention to such near-Earth objects if the shift in their trajectories due to some natural coincidence – for example, a collision with another asteroid – puts them on a collision course with Earth.
The new report also points to several asteroids deemed worthy of further study, including an eccentric cosmic object called 2017 YE5, an extremely rare iso-mass binary asteroid consisting of two nearly identical boulders that are constantly orbiting each other.
The researchers wrote that the asteroid’s high radar reflection could indicate an abundance of water ice below its surface, making it a likely unparalleled class of near-Earth icy isomass asteroids.
With this new “treasure trove” of data, scientists can better measure the shapes, sizes and rotation periods of these asteroids, which are important metrics for assessing the potential risks that asteroids could pose to our planet, according to study lead author Ann Virke. Research Fellow, Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, Finland.
“The amount of valuable data collected is unique, and these results could not be achieved with any other existing equipment,” added Flavian Venditi, co-author of the study and chairman of the Planetary Radar Science Group at Arecibo.
The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico was founded in 1963 and has become the largest and most powerful radio telescope in the world. The famous 305-meter telescopic dish became world famous in the 1990s after being featured in films such as Contact (1997) and Goldeneye (1995).
By that time, the observatory was already well known in the scientific community for transmitting humanity’s first message to aliens in 1974.
More recently, observations of the asteroid Arecibo played a direct role in planning NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) mission, in which scientists collided a spacecraft with the near-Earth asteroid Demorphos.
The Arecibo mission came to an abrupt end in December 2020 after two important support cables were cut, causing the telescope to collapse completely.
In October 2022, the National Science Foundation, which owns the site where Arecibo is built, announced that the telescope would not be replaced or repaired, much to the chagrin of scientists and space enthusiasts around the world.
And the team noted that researchers are still analyzing backlog data from Arecibo, so perhaps the world’s most famous retired telescope may have even more scientific gifts to offer us in the coming years.
Source: Science Alert.