OCT 19, 2017 12:22 PM PDT

Are There Fewer Near-Earth Asteroids in Space Than Initially Thought?

Space rocks are a hot commodity lately; namely asteroids. Not only have several skimmed past the Earth within uncomfortably-close proximities recently, but researchers eventually want to grab samples of nearby asteroids to obtain a deeper understanding of their compositions.

Near-Earth Asteroids may be fewer and farther in between than originally anticipated.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Planetary scientists and astronomers alike refer to asteroids residing closes to Earth in the solar system as Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs), and as of October 3rd, experts believe say there are as many as 16,729-known NEAs.

The latter range in size and most measure under 1 kilometer in diameter, but the number of unknown NEAs is what worries most experts because it's what we can't see that pose the highest threat to Earth.

Astronomy aficionados are familiar with the back-and-forth banter between researchers, with some claiming there are more undiscovered space rocks in our neighborhood than we give credit for, but planetary scientist Alan W. Harris seems convinced of just the opposite.

Related: Regarding asteroid collisions, size does matter

His latest calculations reveal how we might be over-estimating the number of undiscovered NEAs out there, and he plans to unveil his findings at the 49th annual Division for Planetary Sciences meeting, which takes place in Provo, Utah this week.

Many initial estimations, including some that Harris himself made, could be flawed because of a ‘rounding error’ in the algorithms used. Correcting that oversight reportedly yields notable changes to the amount of possible undiscovered NEAs.

Uncorrected, the error could drive one to think that more than 100 unidentified NEAs measuring more than 1 kilometer in diameter lurk in the shadows around us. Upon fixing the mistake, the numbers highlight that there are just 30-40 unknown NEAs of this flavor residing in our planet’s neighborhood.

If that wasn’t enough to raise some eyebrows, it’s fascinating to point out that Harris’ corrected figures agree with NEA estimates given by other entities. Interestingly, these estimates are unrelated to Harris’ and use entirely separate algorithmic calculations to achieve their numbers; that said, he might be onto something here.

There’s no sure-fire way to know precisely how many undiscovered NEAs reside in the solar system because they’re… well… undiscovered. That said, all we can do is predict their existence based on how many that we’ve found so far within a confined chunk of space.

It should be interesting to see how the scientific community responds to Harris’ update, and whether it will have any implications for the way we study the solar system.

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
OCT 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 20, 2019
SpaceX is About to Launch the Most Complex Falcon Heavy Mission Yet
When it comes to modern reusable rocketry, nothing comes close to the substantial lifting power of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. SpaceX has launched...
OCT 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 20, 2019
Here's What the Earth Would Be Like if it Spun Sideways
Planet Earth – the place we all call our home – rotates on its axis with a 23.5-degree tilt. Planetary scientists think that an early solar sys...
OCT 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 20, 2019
This ISS-Based Experiment Could Benefit Parkinson's Disease Patients
Astronauts on the International Space Station do a whole lot more than spacewalk and glance out the window at the beautiful planet Earth. They also conduct...
OCT 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 20, 2019
Both Halves of the James Webb Space Telescope Joined for First Time
NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which was formerly known as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) before getting renamed in t...
OCT 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 20, 2019
Here's Why NASA Wants to Learn More About Metallic Asteroids
NASA’s Psyche mission will investigate the properties of a unique metallic asteroid residing between Mars and Jupiter as it orbits the Sun. It’...
OCT 20, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 20, 2019
2019 Nobel Prize in Physics: Exoplanets and the Evolution of Our Universe
This Tuesday, October 8th, the Nobel Prize committee announced the winners of this year's Physics Nobel. Canadian cosmologist James Peebles, alongside...
Loading Comments...