Scientists Warn Of A Doomsday Asteroid Swarm
Scientists have said that an asteroid swarm would be difficult to deflect if headed towards Earth and could cause a Doomsday event.
A terrifying space phenomenon known as an asteroid swarm was recently confirmed by researchers. Largely made up of small pieces of rubble, it would be extremely difficult to deflect if one was on a collision course with Earth. The catastrophic find has forced scientists to reconsider the planet’s asteroid defense strategies, Futurism reports.
Interestingly, researchers suspected that some asteroids were not completely solid for some time. Scientists started analyzing potential asteroid swarms in 2005 when the Japanese Space Agency’s Hayabusa 1 probe visited a 1,600-foot “rubble pile” called Itokawa. The research states that it is much older than previously thought.
Itokawa could be as old as the entire solar system, a discovery that shocked scientists. Professor of Planetary Sciences at Curtin University in Australia, and lead author of a paper called Rubble Pile Asteroids Are Forever, Fred Jourdan confirmed that the 2005 find is unlike any monolithic asteroid. He said it belongs to the rubble pile family and is made of loose boulders and rocks.
Although half of the asteroid is just empty space, the mysterious pile of space rubble remained cohesive. Jourdan says a monolithic asteroid the size of Itokawa can survive several hundreds of thousands of years in the asteroid belt. He added that its formation dates back 4.2 billion years, which is an astonishingly long survival time for its size.
The reason for its extended lifespan could be due to its unique composition. As a rubble pile, the asteroid would be inherently shock-absorbent and resilient. And if an object like it were ever headed toward Earth, the results would be disastrous. “We found that Itokawa is like a giant space cushion, and very hard to destroy,” Jourdan said via Futurism.
The possibility of an extinction-level event at the hands of a swarm is an extremely sobering thought. Especially after NASA successfully deflected Didymos in 2022 by smashing its Double Asteroid Reduction Test spacecraft into it. The proof of concept mission aimed to find ways for humanity to protect itself from space threats.
Now, research suggests that asteroid swarms like Itokawa may be more abundant than previously thought. According to Nick Timms, who is also a Professor of Planetary Sciences, it means there is a greater chance of a rubble pile hurtling toward Earth. But that doesn’t humanity is doomed. For decades, scientists studied how Jupiter’s asteroid swarms follow as it orbits the sun.
Astronomers may have finally deduced why one has more asteroids than the other. According to a paper published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, the fast outward migration of Jupiter as it moves away from the sun may be distorting its asteroid swarms. This movement results in more stable asteroid orbits appearing in one swarm.
And, armed with the knowledge that a rubble pile could be threatening our existence, scientists could change our defense tactics. According to Nick Timms, something like a shockwave of a close nuclear blast could be used to push a rock pile asteroid off course without destroying it. Fortunately, there’s still time to figure things out.