Whether we like it or not, Earth is pretty exposed to being hit by asteroids. Between Mars and Jupiter, there’s an asteroid belt composed of millions of asteroids. From time to time, the Sun’s enormous gravity pulls asteroids towards it, and they can get diverted by a planet during their journey. That’s how planets get hit by asteroids, and it’s not necessary to have Einstein’s mind to understand that Earth can be hit the same way.
Three Leiden astronomers have shown that new asteroids could collide with Earth in the future. They had been using a supercomputer to integrate the orbits of the sun and its surrounding planets forward in time for up to 10,000 years. This is an ingenious method for which they acquired a database of hypothetical asteroids that will collide with the Earth’s surface.
Eleven asteroids over one hundred meters in diameter
The researchers used the Hazardous Object Identifier (HOI) method for tracking down the asteroids. This means that some calculations were performed on the new Leiden supercomputer called ALICE. The neural network, on the other hand, had been running on a simple laptop.
HOI discovered eleven asteroids that will come very close to Earth between the years 2131 and 2923. They will come closer than ten times the Earth-Moon distance, and we also know that they are some pretty big “wiseguys”: over 100 meters in diameter. While it’s necessary for an asteroid to have between one and two kilometers in order to be able to cause global damage, you definitely wouldn’t want your backyard or town to be visited by a 100-meter in diameter asteroid. However, a huge asteroid caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago, and scientists are certain that such a scenario will repeat itself at some point in the future.
The results of the Leiden astronomers will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.