It’s not easy being a speeding rock in our solar system.
Illustration of an asteroid breaking apart into smaller fragments. [NASA/JPL]Over their lifetimes, the millions of minor rocky bodies of our solar system — asteroids — are subject to extreme conditions. Some experience dramatic collisions, some are spun up to such high rotation speeds that they fly apart, and some venture so close to the Sun that our star’s heat cracks them into pieces.
Over time, these violent processes create families of asteroids that dance around our solar system on similar paths. Where one rock once orbited, there might now be a group of genetically linked asteroids that follow similar trajectories — all produced by the splitting of one parent rock.
In a new study, scientists have explored two especially nearby asteroids to determine whether they might be linked.
A Visit to a “Potentially Hazardous” Neighbor
The orbital path of the near-Earth asteroid Phaethon. [Sky&Tel]Asteroids whose orbits bring them close to the Earth are of particular interest to us: we like to keep an eye on those bodies that might threaten our planet.
Perhaps 22,000 near-Earth asteroids are currently known, with just over 2,000 that are large enough and swing ...