Friday August 17, 2018

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft begins 2-week search for enigmatic class of near-Earth objects known as Earth-Trojan asteroids

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Aerial View of NASA. Wikimedia
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Washington, Feb 10, 2017: NASA said its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has started a two-week search for an enigmatic class of near-Earth objects known as Earth-Trojan asteroids.

The mission, currently on a two-year outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu, will spend almost two weeks searching for evidence of these small bodies, the US space agency said on Thursday.

Although scientists have discovered thousands of Trojan asteroids accompanying other planets, only one Earth-Trojan has been identified to date, asteroid 2010 TK7.

Scientists predict that there should be more Trojans sharing Earth’s orbit but they are difficult to detect from Earth as they appear near the sun on the Earth’s horizon.

“So this search gives us a unique opportunity to explore the primordial building blocks of Earth,” said principal investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Trojan asteroids are trapped in stable gravity wells, called Lagrange points, which precede or follow a planet.

Launched on September 8, 2016, OSIRIS-REx is currently travelling through Earth’s fourth Lagrange point, which is located 60 degrees ahead in Earth’s orbit around the sun, about 150 million km from Earth.

The mission team will use this opportunity to take multiple images of the area with the spacecraft’s MapCam camera in the hope of identifying Earth-Trojan asteroids in the region.

“Because the Earth’s fourth Lagrange point is relatively stable, it is possible that remnants of the material that built Earth are trapped within it,” Lauretta said.

The operations involved in searching for Earth-Trojan asteroids closely resemble those required to search for natural satellites and other potential hazards around Bennu when the spacecraft approaches its target in 2018, NASA said. (IANS)

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Oldest Known Rocks Evolved on Earth Are Result of Asteroids, Research Reveals

Meaning these rocks were rare survivors from a very different time on Earth

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Earth's oldest known evolved rocks result of asteroids. Pixabay

The oldest evolved rocks on Earth are the consequence of asteroids colliding with the the planet 4 billion years ago, an Australian research released on Tuesday revealed.

The study by the Curtin University suggests that the rocks, part of the Acasta Gneiss Complex in northwest Canada, are the result of asteroids smashing into the Earth and melting its crust, allowing evolved, or granitic, rocks to form, reports Xinhua news agency.

What led scientists to suggest that they were formed in this way was firstly, the composition of the rocks is different from the those typical of the Earth’s ancient crust.

“The only known evolved rocks from the Hadean eon are those in northwest Canada, which have chemical compositions clearly distinct from those that dominate ancient continental crust worldwide, suggesting they were formed in a different way,” research co-author professor Phil Bland said.

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Meaning these rocks were rare survivors from a very different time on Earth. Pixabay

Secondly, the rocks were melted at very low pressures, equivalent to the uppermost few kilometres of crust, meaning the event happened closer to the Earth’s surface.

“The melting of these rocks at such shallow levels is most easily explained by meteorite impacts, which would have supplied the energy to attain the extreme temperatures required for melting,” lead researcher Tim Johnson said.

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This period, around 4 billion years ago, was dominated by a barrage of asteroid impacts that would have caused widespread melting and recycling of the Earth’s surface.

“Consequently, there are almost no rocks preserved from Earth’s formative Hadean eon,” Bland said.

Meaning these rocks were rare survivors from a very different time on Earth. (IANS)