(photo credit: NASA)
Israeli scientists have been invited to present important new research on "double asteroids" at a US National Aeronautics and Space Administration workshop in Colorado.
The paper, to be presented this week by Tel Aviv University researchers at the "NEO [Near-Earth Object] Detection and Threat Mitigation" workshop, discusses the discovery of a high incidence of double "Aten-type" asteroids and the danger of their potential collision with Earth.
TAU runs a national information center (supported by the Israel Space Agency and the Science and Technology Ministry) on near-Earth asteroids and comets that are liable to cause our planet harm. At the TAU Wise Observatory in Mitzpe Ramon, researchers monitor these celestial bodies and study the light coming from them.
As part of his doctoral work at TAU, David Polishook investigated Aten-type asteroids that transverse the Earth's orbit but most of the time are located between the Earth and the Sun so that they are difficult to observe.
Out of eight bodies investigated, five were found to be double - a main asteroid several kilometers in diameter and a smaller "moon" that revolves around it. These moons are apparently several hundred meters in diameter and located only a few kilometers from the asteroids they circle.
This discovery is important because the presence of the moon disrupts scientists' plans of eliminating the danger to Earth posed by double asteroids either by changing their orbit or destroying them in a nuclear explosion.
Following the presentation on the discovery by TAU researchers, NASA workshop organizers are to write a report for the US Congress on the subject. Since only American citizens are permitted to present their research in person, the Israeli scientists were asked to send their data as a "white paper" for discussion.