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Dozens of near-Earth asteroids formed from the breakup of a comet 20,000 years ago, study finds

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A swarm of 88 nearby Earth asteroids hidden in the debris that the Taurid Meteor Shower produces come from the breakup of a single comet just 20,000 years ago, a new study has revealed.

Studying the various objects within the “Taurid complex” helped astronomers at the University of Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia, better understand their origins.

The larger asteroids were observed in the flow in the 1980s, prompting astronomers William Napier and Victor Clube to suggest they shared a “parent” with Comet Encke — a periodic comet that orbits the Sun once every three years. completes.

Some of these asteroids are more than a mile wide, making them too large to have been produced by Comet Encke itself, according to study authors Ignacio Ferrín and Vincenzo Orofino.

Their new study included a review of dozens of research papers published since the 1980s and a measurement of reflected light from the larger space rocks.

This allowed them to present “further evidence” that Comet Encke, and the larger asteroids, all came from the breakup of a 62-mile-wide ice ball 20,000 years ago.

The team says the asteroids in the flow could pose a threat to Earth, and other objects that came from the ancient comet may have hit the planet in the past.

A swarm of 88 nearby Earth asteroids hidden in the debris producing the Taurid Meteor Shower originated from the breakup of a single comet just 20,000 years ago, a new study has revealed.

What is the Taurid complex?

Every year, from the end of October, the sky plays host to the meteor shower, also known as ‘nature fireworks’.

The Taurids screen was created by debris left behind by Encke’s comet, named for the astronomer who discovered its annual trajectory in 1819.

Researchers from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences have kept these fragments.

They have found two asteroids, named 2015 TX24 and 2005 UR, that are part of a previously undiscovered branch of the Taurid debris.

The space rocks are 200 to 300 meters in diameter and are registered on the International Astronomical Union’s list of “potentially dangerous” asteroids.

But the Czech team is concerned that the field of hidden debris may contain even larger objects.

Earth passes through a portion of the stream each year, appearing as shooting stars in the sky each October in the Southern Hemisphere and November in the North.

Comet Encke was first seen in 1786 and, like other comets entering the inner solar system, left behind a stream of debris as it got closer to the sun.

The fact that such a large, well-populated and unpredictable complex of rocks, debris and dust regularly comes close to Earth has made them the subject of much academic research over the decades, some focusing on the larger asteroids.

Experts have previously linked Taurid’s effects to the death of prehistoric cultures and the cooling of the global climate during an ice age known as the Younger Dryas.

The Tunguska event, in which a small asteroid exploded five miles above an inhabited part of Russia in 1908, is also thought to be related to the Taurid Current.

Millions of trees were destroyed in an area of ​​1,200 square miles of land, and that happened when Comet Encke was at the minimum distance from Earth.

The Chelyabinsk meteor, which injured more than 1,500 people when it disintegrated in 2013, probably also came from the Taurid complex, the team behind this study said.

And in 2005, NASA astronomer Rob Suggs spotted a brief flash of light from a lunar impact while testing a new 250mm telescope and video camera, later confirming it was part of the Taurid meteor shower.

The Colombian team, including astronomers from the University of Salento in Italy, re-analyzed dozens of papers published on impacts, confirming that the complex consisted of up to 88 larger objects.

They then used a technique called secular light curves, finding changes in the brightness of each member of the complex, and found that 67 percent of them showed signs of “comet activity.”

This provided a “smoking gun” for the shared origin theory, according to the team.

Napier welcomed the findings of this new study, which suggests that having asteroids in orbits similar to Comet Encke’s indicates either an unknown dynamic process or that they are degassed fragments of a precursor comet.

The team says the asteroids in the steam could pose a threat to Earth, and other objects from the ancient comet may have hit the planet in the past.

The team says the asteroids in the steam could pose a threat to Earth, and other objects from the ancient comet may have hit the planet in the past.

HOW WAS THE ANCESOR’S COMET?

The ancestor may have been a ‘mess’ made of elemental, rocky or carbonaceous blocks held together in an icy matrix.

The fragmentation of this pile, possibly due to tidal forces from the sun or another body, would have resulted in multiple types of underlying objects.

The children would have been relatively large, with the same mess structure, and quite small, consisting of the original boulders.

Oljato, one of the asteroids in the complex, is said to be an example of a mess, held together by an icy matrix that is still sufficient to produce cometary activity.

Large inactive objects, such as Morpheus, would be similar to Oljato, but their original icy part could be exhaust or sealed in the interior.

Smaller inactive objects, such as SO198 from 2006, may be original boulders.

“The fact that an object has a spectrum similar to that of asteroids in the main belt does not rule out that that object has a cometary character,” the team explains.

They predict that it may have originated in the inner solar system, where rocky objects were born in the early years.

However, as Jupiter migrated further out, tidal forces would have pushed many of these objects toward the outer solar system, giving them an icy character.

They then return to the inner solar system as comets, fed by the ice that turns to gas as it warms, leaving behind a tail of dust and debris.

The ancestor may have been a “mess” made of elemental, rocky or carbonaceous blocks, held together by a massive icy matrix in the core and out through the debris.

The fragmentation of this pile, possibly due to tidal forces from the sun or another body, would have resulted in multiple types of underlying objects.

Oljato, one of the asteroids in the complex, is an example of a mess held together by an icy matrix that is still sufficient to produce cometary activity, but much smaller than the parents.

Large inactive objects, such as Morpheus, would be similar to Oljato, but their original icy component could be sealed in the interior.

Meanwhile, smaller inactive objects, such as 2006 SO198, may be original boulders.

“The fact that an object has a spectrum similar to that of asteroids in the main belt does not rule out that that object has a cometary character,” the team explains.

Tauric meteors are usually larger than normal meteors, meaning they are bright and penetrate deeper into Earth’s atmosphere, many of which are fireballs.

While this is usually a harmless phenomenon, the discovery of larger asteroids within one ‘dangerous branch’ of the flow could pose a real risk.

Earth only passes through this potentially dangerous branch once every few years, causing an increased number of shooting stars and potentially resulting in large objects that can fall to Earth instead of disintegrating into the atmosphere.

Future industry encounters are forecast for 2022, 2025, 2032 and 2039.

David Asher, an astronomer at the Armagh Observatory and not involved in this study, told Discover Magazine that this work helps build a picture of the original Taurid.

He predicted that in 2032 and 2036 we will likely pass through the center of the Taurid complex, where there will be a “noticeable increase in fireballs.”

Ferrin said outgassing from comet-like objects in the complex could hide smaller but still potentially dangerous asteroids that could hit Earth.

“Tunguska’s cosmic body was 60 to 90 meters in diameter,” he told Discover Magazine, adding that “we now believe the complex could contain many more objects of that size. It’s not the tame, simple, and harmless complex we thought it was.’

Explained: the difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks

An asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.

AN comet is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.

AN meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.

This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small that they evaporate into the atmosphere.

When one of these meteoroids reaches Earth, it becomes a . called meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.

For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris in the atmosphere burns up, forming a meteor shower.

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