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Difference between Asteroids and Meteorites – Interesting Engineering

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Space is vast and endless and even though we have been here on earth for 200,000 years, it’s only recently that we started exploring space. There are several mysteries in space we still don’t have any answers to, but we are making progress at a pace that was never possible before!

However, asteroids and meteors are the two entities that have often confused many. They became even more important when we found that the dinosaurs that lived on this planet were wiped out because of an asteroid hitting the earth.

RELATED: WE NEED TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT ASTEROID THREATS SAYS NASA CHIEF

Ever since this discovery, asteroids and meteors became the inspiration of many fictional creations, primarily movies that revolve around the topic of saving earth from an asteroid.

Space agencies like NASA and ESA have set up space monitoring systems that scan the space for a foreign entity that can enter our atmosphere. NASA calls its space monitoring system Sentry and uses advanced monitoring systems and computers to find the course of asteroids for the next 100 years.

The confusion between the two terms became prevalent as we started using the terms carelessly. The entities in spaces are given certain names because they have distinguishing factors.

Let’s settle some of the misconceptions that surround asteroids and meteors.

Asteroids and meteoroids were once parts of planets. They are now the remnants of those planets which may have undergone some collision or other interspace destruction.

The asteroids and meteoroids are parts of them that are floating around in space, sometimes getting pulled by a gravitational field and hitting other objects.

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Asteroids are large pieces of rocks that orbit the earth. Their composition is mostly rock and metal. They are categorized as rocks that are more than 10 meters in diameter.

An example of a large collection of asteroids is the asteroid belt that surrounds Mars and Jupiter. In the asteroid belt, it is estimated that there are more than 750,000 asteroids.

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It was an asteroid that was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. As their size gets bigger, the more impact power they pack.

There are also other asteroids impacts on earth, and they have left craters for us to see their devastation.

The Vredefort crater in South Africa is a prime example of the craters formed by asteroid impacts. It stretches more than 300 kilometers in width.

Even today, there are speculations of asteroids hitting the earth. There have been many reports written on an asteroid that had a very minor chance (1 in 70,000) of hitting the earth.

But it is now put to rest as the asteroid was found to be not on the course as it was originally predicted. The asteroid in question was discovered in 2006 and named 2006 QV89.

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The researches tracked the asteroid again recently only to find that it is not on course.

Like we discussed before, scientists have already mapped out most asteroids that pose a threat to the world. However, uncertainties do happen like the Asteroid 2019 OK that went past earth on July 25th, 2019 with less than one fifth the distance to the moon, blindsiding the researchers who only got wind of the asteroid only hours before it was revealed.

The Asteroid 2019 OK was the size of a boulder, traveling at the speeds of 54,000 miles per hour. If it were to hit the earth, there would have been devastating local destruction.

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Meteors are rocks that are smaller in size when compared to asteroids. They are broken pieces of asteroids hence their composition is also made mostly of metals and rock.

If any celestial body wants to reach the earth’s surface, it needs to go first through the earth’s atmosphere.  Our atmosphere acts as a barrier against such enemies as they travel through it.

The friction between air and the meteor creates tremendous amounts of heat, vaporizing the foreign entity. These vaporizations are often called ‘shooting stars’ or ‘falling stars’.

However, when meteors are sizeable, they may not get fully vaporized. Such meteors have high chances of reaching the earth. 

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It is estimated that around 17 meteors reach the earth’s surface every single day. We hardly notice any of them because humans occupy only a tiny fraction of the earth’s surface.

Most of these meteors hence go unnoticed. The meteors that hit the earth surface are called meteorites.

They are comprised mostly of metal because most of the rock content gets vaporized early on. However, some do fall at places where there is a human population, and they have been recorded over time.

Some meteors explode once they are in our atmosphere due to the forces acting on them. One such example is the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded in our atmosphere on 15 February 2013 over Russia, raining rocks as a result of the explosion.

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This explosion also left notable damage to the man-made properties in the form of broken glasses and damaged buildings (estimates suggest that Chelyabinsk explosion damaged over 7000 buildings). More than 1,000 people were believed to be injured.

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A much recent event of meteor explosion happened last year over the Bering Sea on December 18th. The explosion had a force 10 times that of the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.

We didn’t get to see any real-time images or videos of the same because it happened over the Bering Sea.

RELATED: A MASSIVE ASTEROID JUST CAME AWFULLY CLOSE TO EARTH

Meteors and asteroids are celestial bodies that do not differ much from each other except their relative sizes. The information that we have on them makes it clear why we should track them.

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Incidents like 2019 OK shows us why there’s a need to have more tracking power to avoid such surprises. New initiatives like those recently seen from NASA in supporting space research are required for us to see far into space. 

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'We Should Be Retreating Already From the Coastline,' Scientist Suggests After Finding Warm Waters Below Greenland – EcoWatch

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Andrew Yang’s assertion that people move away from the coast at the last Democratic debate is the completely rational and correct choice for NASA scientists in Greenland.

“There is enough ice in Greenland to raise the sea levels by 7.5 meters, that’s about 25 feet, an enormous volume of ice, and that would be devastating to coastlines all around the planet,” said Josh Willis, a NASA oceanographer, to CNN. “We should be retreating already from the coastline if we are looking at many meters [lost] in the next century or two.”

Willis and his research team at NASA’s Ocean Melting Greenland have been seeing some alarming patterns as they jet around the island’s coastline since heat waves bore down on the U.S. and Europe at the end of July, as CNN reported. Not only is the surface temperature warmer, turning Greenland into a slush-filled mess, but the ocean temperature deep under the water is also rising. The warming water eats away at the foundation of the glaciers, meaning Greenland’s massive ice sheet is getting weaker at the top and the bottom, which spells trouble for the entire world.

“Greenland has impacts all around the planet. A billion tons of ice lost here raises sea levels in Australia, in Southeast Asia, in the United States, in Europe,” said Willis to CNN. “We are all connected by the same ocean.”

The scientists looking at the ice and waters found a large opening of water near Helheim glacier, a huge 4-mile glacier on Greenland’s east coast, that had warm water along its entire depth, more than 2,000 feet below the surface, as CNN reported.

“It’s very rare anywhere on the planet to see 700 meters of no temperature variation, normally we find colder waters in the upper hundred meters or so, but right in front of the glacier it’s warm all the way up,” said Ian Fenty, a climate scientist at NASA, to CNN. “These warm waters now are able to be in direct contact with the ice over its entire face, supercharging the melting.”

Helheim has made news the past two summers. Two years ago it lost a huge 2-mile piece. Last summer a chunk the size of lower Manhattan broke off and was captured on video, as National Geographic reported.

This year the glacier has continued to melt.

“It retreats by many meters per day, it’s tens of meters per day. You can probably set your iPhone on timelapse and actually see it go by,” said Willis to CNN.

The ice in Greenland started the summer weak. There was little snowfall this past winter to reinforce the ice or to absorb the sunlight in the peak of summer, when the sun never fully goes down. Fresh snow stays bright and reflective, which bounces away solar radiation. Older snow is less reflective and absorbs the sun’s heat. When the first heat wave hit in June, 45 percent of Greenland’s ice sheet was ready to melt, according to National Geographic.

Arctic ice like Greenland’s is also vital to removing carbon from the atmosphere, according to a study in the journal Polar Biology. The calcium carbonate crystals that make up sea ice trap carbon dioxide in a cold brine. When the sea ice melts, it drops that carbon dioxide into the ocean where it binds to algae, which stops it from circulating around the atmosphere.

As sea ice decreases, less carbon will be removed from the atmosphere. Plus, the melting ice will raise sea levels. Glaciers like Helheim are big enough to make global sea levels rise by one millimeter in just one month, which concerns scientists, as CNN reported.

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A monster asteroid twice the size of The Shard is heading for Earth – Metro.co.uk

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A view of an asteroid and Planet Earth shining tiny and vulnerable in the bleak blackness of space (Image: ESA)

A gigantic asteroid is coming our way and will zoom terrifyingly close to Earth on September 14.

The monster space rock is called 2000 QW7 and is thought to be up to 650 metres wide.

This means it could be more than twice as big as The Shard in London Bridge, which is about 310 metres tall.

Happily, the object will zoom past at a distance of about five million miles from Earth at a speed of more than 23,000 kilometres per hour.

The last time it came past Earth was in 2000 and we’ll see it again in 2038.

Elon Musk recently warned that Earth has ‘no defence’ against gigantic asteroids.

A doomsday space rock could wipe out millions or even cause the extinction of humanity (Provider: Getty)

A doomsday space rock could wipe out millions or even cause the extinction of humanity (Provider: Getty)

The billionaire issued this chilling assessment of our planetary defence capabilities after his friend Joe Rogan shared a story from a British newspaper which discussed how Nasa is preparing for the arrival of a space rock named after an Egyptian ‘God of Chaos’ called Apophis.

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Musk tweeted: ‘Great name! Wouldn’t worry about this particular one, but a big rock will hit Earth eventually & we currently have no defence.’

The 340-metre wide behemoth is on a path which brings it within such a short distance of our planet’s surface that Nasa once feared it was going to hit us.

Luckily, subsequent calculations showed the object was going to miss us and pass within just 19,000 miles of our planet’s surface – a hair’s breadth in cosmic terms.

‘The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,’ said Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who works on radar observations of near-Earth objects (NEOs).

‘We’ll observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes. With radar observations, we might be able to see surface details that are only a few meters in size.’

Asteroid approaching Earth. Computer artwork of an asteroid entering Earth's atmosphere.

The space rock which will buzz Earth is big enough to destroy a city (Photo: Getty)

If Apophis did hit a city like London, it would wipe out millions of people and create a crater roughly three miles wide, but our species would probably survive.

It’s only when space rocks are half a mile wide or larger that they start to pose an existential threat to humanity because larger objects could throw so much dust and debris into the air that sunlight is blocked so plants across the planet can no longer grow.

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In a piece of cosmic irony, Apophis will fly past on Friday, April 13, 2029.

Astronomers around the world will train their telescopes on the asteroid.

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The asteroid was discussed at Nasa’s annual Planetary Defence Conference this week, where scientists and disaster planners also simulated an asteroid apocalypse in order to practice their emergency response. 

‘Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs),” said Paul Chodas, director of Nasa’s Centre for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS).

‘By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defence.’



Nasa’s guide to viewing Apophis

‘On April 13, 2029, a speck of light will streak across the sky getting brighter and faster. At one point it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper. But it won’t be a satellite or an airplane—it will be a 340-meter-wide near-Earth asteroid called 99942 Apophis that will cruise harmlessly by Earth, about 19,000 miles (31,000 km) above the surface. That’s within the distance that some of our spacecraft that orbit Earth.

‘It’s rare for an asteroid of this size to pass by the Earth so close. Although scientists have spotted small asteroids, on the order of 5-10 meters, flying by Earth at a similar distance, asteroids the size of Apophis are far fewer in number and so do not pass this close to Earth as often.

‘The asteroid, looking like a moving star-like point of light, will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere, flying above Earth from the east coast to the west coast of Australia. It will be mid-morning on the East Coast of the United States when Apophis is above Australia. It will then cross the Indian Ocean, and by the afternoon in the eastern U.S. it will have crossed the equator, still moving west, above Africa. At closest approach, just before 6 p.m. EDT, Apophis will be over the Atlantic Ocean – and it will move so fast that it will cross the Atlantic in just an hour. By 7 p.m. EDT, the asteroid will have crossed over the United States.’

Several views of Apophis released in 2013 (Image: Nasa)

Several views of Apophis released in 2013 (Image: Nasa)

In 2013, Nasa calculated that Apophis would not hit Earth.

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‘We have effectively ruled out the possibility of an Earth impact by Apophis in 2036,’ said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL.

‘The impact odds as they stand now are less than one in a million, which makes us comfortable saying we can effectively rule out an Earth impact in 2036. Our interest in asteroid Apophis will essentially be for its scientific interest for the foreseeable future.’

However, it said the ‘April 13, 2029, flyby of asteroid Apophis will be one for the record books’ because of how close the object will come to our planet.

A view of the asteroid as it travelled past Earth (Image: ESA)

A view of the asteroid as it travelled past Earth (Image: ESA)

Last month an asteroid big enough to kill millions zoomed past the planet just a few days after it was spotted.

If it had been on a collision course with Earth, we could have done little to protect ourselves and would have had to watch helplessly as the space rock ploughed into our homeworld.

After this flyby, the European Space Agency issued an urgent call for more ‘eyes on the sky’ to make sure we don’t get caught by ‘surprise’ again.

On July 25, astronomers watched as a 100-metre wide object called 2019 OK came within 65 000 km of our planet’s surface – which  is roughly one-fifth of the distance to the Moon.

The rock had actually been ‘previously been observed but wasn’t recognised as a near-Earth asteroid,’ ESA admitted.

Now it’s hoping to learn from this mistake and make sure every asteroid heading our way is located and identified well ahead of time.

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‘This ‘un-recognition’ of an asteroid, despite it being photographed will be used to test the software going into ESA’s upcoming asteroid-hunting telescope, the Flyeye,’ said Rüdiger Jehn, ESA’s Head of Planetary Defence.

Asteroid approaching Earth. Computer artwork of an asteroid entering Earth's atmosphere.

The asteroid will skim Earth by 4.6 million miles next week (Science Photo Library RF)

Nasa will be sure to keep a close eye on Asteroid 2006 QQ23, which is set to pass by Earth on August 10.

The massive rock, which has been estimated at 570m in diameter and bigger than New York’s Empire State Building, has been classified as a ‘near-Earth object’ (NEO).

It will make its closest approach to Earth at a distance of 4.6 million miles at some time just after 3am.

The asteroid was discovered over a decade ago in 2006, which gives it part of its designated title.

The American space agency says there’s no danger of the wayward rock hitting us, which is a very good thing. Even though the asteroid isn’t a big as some out there, it’s large enough to create widespread devastation if it impacted on Earth.

A land impact could obliterate an entire city while a plunge into the ocean could cause tsunamis that impact low-lying land.

In either scenario, the asteroid would change the climate for many years.

The path of Asteroid 2006 QV89 can be seen alongside the planets' orbit in this graphic (Image: ESA)

The path of Asteroid 2006 QV89 can be seen alongside the planets’ orbit in this graphic (Image: ESA)

Nasa estimates it has already found over 90 percent of near-Earth objects measuring one kilometre or larger – which would have catastrophic global effects in the event of a collision.

But, smaller space rocks are much harder to detect.

The space agency has been working to pinpoint NEOs in the 140-meter range, with a goal of identifying at least 90 percent of these objects.

The asteroid is larger than New York's Empire State Building (Rob Loud/Getty Images for Gotham Organization)

The asteroid is larger than New York’s Empire State Building (Rob Loud/Getty Images for Gotham Organization)

According to Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) manager Paul Chodas there are very few asteroids identified by NASA that have a chance of hitting Earth, one of which, Bennu, is the subject of frequent monitoring by the agency.

Bennu is as wide as five football fields and weighs around 79 billion kilograms, which is 1,664 times heavier than the Titanic.

It has a 1 in 2,700-chance of striking Earth between 2175 and 2199 – which is really very small, so there’s no need to worry unduly for your great, great grandchildren’s safety.

Luckily for us, Elon Musk has already joined forces with Nasa to help defend our planet against doomsday space rocks. 

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Glaciers In Greenland Are Melting Like Never Before, Especially The Helheim Glacier – News Neni

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Helheim Glacier- is where Earth’s refrigerator door is left open, where glaciers dwindle, and seas start to rise.

Air and ocean scientist David Holland, who’s been monitoring Greenland from above and beneath, calls it “the end of the planet.” He’s referring to geography, not making an apocalyptic prediction. But in some ways, this spot just inside the Arctic Circle is where the planet’s hotter and watery future is being written.

It’s so warm right here that on an August day, coats are left on the ground and Holland and colleagues work on the thin melting ice without gloves. In one of many closest towns, Kulusuk, the morning temperature reached 52 degrees Fahrenheit — warm sufficient for shirtsleeves.

The ice Holland is standing on, is hundreds and thousands of years old. Scientists say it will likely be gone within a year or two, adding more water to rising seas worldwide.

Summer season this year is striking Greenland with record-shattering heat and extreme melt. By season’s end, about 440 billion tons of ice — perhaps more — could have melted or calved off Greenland’s giant ice sheet, experts estimate. That’s sufficient to flood all the state of Pennsylvania underwater a couple of foot deep.

Between July 31 and Aug. 3 alone, more than 58 billion tons melted from the surface. The average for this time of year is less than 18 billion tons. And that doesn’t even count the massive calving events or the nice and cozy water eating away at the glaciers from beneath.

One of the places hit hardest in this hot Greenland summertime is on the south-eastern fringe of the vast frozen island. Helheim, one of Greenland’s fastest-retreating glaciers, has shrunk about 6 miles since scientists came here in 2005.

Several scientists, such as oceanographer Josh Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mentioned what’s occurring is the results of both human-made climate change and natural however bizarre climate patterns.

Glaciers right here do shrink in the summertime and grow in the winter, however nothing like this year.

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