‘Rubble pile’ asteroids almost unattainable to destroy, research suggests

Asteroid findings from specks of space dust could save the planet
Asteroid Itokawa. Credit score: Curtin College

Curtin College-led analysis into the sturdiness and age of an historic asteroid product of rocky rubble and dirt, revealed important findings that would contribute to probably saving the planet if one ever hurtled towards Earth.


The worldwide workforce studied three tiny mud particles collected from the floor of historic 500-meter-long rubble pile asteroid, Itokawa, returned to Earth by the Japanese House Company’s Hayabusa 1 probe.

The research’s outcomes confirmed asteroid Itokawa, which is 2 million kilometers from Earth and across the measurement of Sydney Harbor Bridge, was arduous to destroy and immune to collision.

Lead creator Professor Fred Jourdan, Director of the Western Australian Argon Isotope Facility, a part of the John de Laeter Centre and the College of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin, mentioned the workforce additionally discovered Itokawa is sort of as outdated because the photo voltaic system itself.

“In contrast to monolithic asteroids, Itokawa will not be a single lump of rock, however belongs to the rubble pile household which suggests it is fully product of free boulders and rocks, with nearly half of it being empty area,” Professor Jourdan mentioned.

“The survival time of monolithic asteroids the scale of Itokawa is predicted to be solely a number of lots of of 1000’s of years within the asteroid belt.

“The large affect that destroyed Itokawa’s monolithic dad or mum asteroid and fashioned Itokawa occurred at the least 4.2 billion years in the past. Such an astonishingly lengthy survival time for an asteroid the scale of Itokawa is attributed to the shock-absorbent nature of rubble pile materials.

“In brief, we discovered that Itokawa is sort of a large area cushion, and really arduous to destroy.”

Asteroid findings from specks of space dust could save the planet
Itokawa grain with scale. Credit score: Celia Mayers / Curtin College

The Curtin-led workforce used two complementary strategies to investigate the three mud particles. The primary one is known as Electron Backscattered Diffraction and might measure if a rock has been shocked by any meteor affect. The second technique—argon-argon relationship—is used to this point asteroid impacts.

Co-author Affiliate Professor Nick Timms, additionally from Curtin’s College of Earth and Planetary Sciences, mentioned the sturdiness of rubble pile asteroids was beforehand unknown, jeopardizing the power to design protection methods in case one was hurtling towards Earth.

“We got down to reply whether or not rubble pile asteroids are immune to being shocked or whether or not they fragment on the slightest knock,” Affiliate Professor Timms mentioned.

“Now that now we have discovered they will survive within the photo voltaic system for nearly its complete historical past, they have to be extra considerable within the asteroid belt than beforehand thought, so there’s extra probability that if a giant asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, it is going to be a rubble pile.

“The excellent news is that we are able to additionally use this data to our benefit—if an asteroid is detected too late for a kinetic push, we are able to then probably use a extra aggressive strategy like utilizing the shockwave of a close-by nuclear blast to push a rubble-pile asteroid off beam with out destroying it.”

Curtin College co-authors embrace Affiliate Professor William Rickard, Celia Mayers, Professor Steven Reddy, Dr. David Saxey and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland, all from the College of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Revealed within the Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences, the research is titled “Rubble pile asteroids are perpetually.”

Extra data:
Jourdan, Fred, Rubble pile asteroids are perpetually, Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences (2023). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2214353120.

Offered by
Curtin College

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‘Rubble pile’ asteroids almost unattainable to destroy, research suggests (2023, January 23)
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