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Unstrange Phenomena

27 March 2009

Astronomy: New Effective Technique to Better Measure Asteroids

Tired of hearing about all those asteroid near-misses almost hitting our beloved planet Earth? Everyone on the planet is affected by scientists' new development!

photo of our main asteroid belt called Barbara from ESO.org

From Denny:

Apologies for getting this post out late this morning. Yesterday Louisiana had flooding rain and then lightning all afternoon and night. The internet was so slow yesterday was only able to pre-load a few blogs. Oh, that I could have the fun of blogging in real time but such is life on the Gulf Coast in the hurricane zone! Usually, I'm successful enough to at least get one post per blog scheduled a day...

On to astronomy news that relates to every person on the planet:

Lately, we are often hearing on the global news that an asteroid just barely missed colliding into planet Earth. Now for the good news! A team of scientists from France and Italy figured out how to increase the number of asteroids measured by a factor of several hundred. For some time traditional measuring techniques have prevented us from measuring asteroids too small or too far away to predict what might affect us.

The new technique is so powerful it has been likened to measuring an asteroid the size of a tennis ball from 1,000 kilometers away. The new technique is called interferometry.

Until now, the method of direct imaging, with adaptive optics, only allowed for measuring the 100 largest asteroids of the main belt called Barbara. With the other technique called radar measurements it is limited to those near-misses you keep hearing about: “asteroid near-miss to planet Earth” and scaring the hell out of everyone!

This new and powerful interferometric technique now combines the light from two or more telescopes. They have since applied this new technique to the main asteroid belt to discover it has unusual properties and shape never before seen.

For the infinitesimal astronomy and gadget details only science and astronomy buffs salivate over please click on the title link.

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