May 25, 2024


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More than 1,000 new additions to our solar system have been hiding in the Hubble archives

More than 1,000 new additions to our solar system have been hiding in the Hubble archives

The venerable Hubble Space Telescope is like a gift that keeps on giving. Not only is it still making astronomical discoveries after more than thirty years of work. They also make discoveries by accident!

Thanks to an international team of citizen scientists, with the help of astronomers from the European Space Agency (ESA) and some machine learning algorithms, a new sample of… More than a thousand asteroids It has been identified in archival Hubble data.

The methods used represent a new approach to finding objects in decades-old data that can be applied to other datasets as well.

The research team was headed by Pablo García Martín, a researcher at the Department of Theoretical Physics at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). It included members from the European Space Agency, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and NASA Astronomical Institute of the Romanian AcademyUniversity of Craiova, University of Côte d'Azur, and Bastion Technologies.

The paper describing their findings, “Hubble Asteroid Hunter III. Physical properties of newly discovered asteroidsrecently appeared in Astronomy and astrophysics.

Ask any astronomer and they will tell you that asteroids are leftover material from the formation of the solar system ca. 4.5 billion years ago. These objects come in many shapes and sizes, from large rocks to planets.

Observing these objects is challenging because they are faint and constantly moving as they orbit the Sun. Because of its fast geocentric orbit, Hubble can pick up wandering asteroids thanks to the distinctive curved paths they leave in Hubble's exposures. As Hubble orbits Earth, its view changes as it observes the asteroids that follow its orbits.

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Asteroids are also known to have “light bomb” images obtained by Hubble of distant cosmic objects such as UGC 12158 (see image above). By knowing Hubble's location when asteroids are struck and measuring the curvature of the lines they leave, scientists can determine the distances of asteroids and estimate the shapes of their orbits. The ability to do this with large samples allows astronomers to test theories about the formation and evolution of the main asteroid belt.

As Martin said at the European Space Agency's Hubble recently press release:

“We are digging deeper to see the smaller number of asteroids in the main belt. We were surprised to see so many candidate objects. There have been some hints that this group exists, but now we are confirming it with a random sample of the asteroid group. Obtained using The entire Hubble archive, which is important for providing insight into evolutionary models of our solar system.

According to one widely accepted model, small asteroids are fragments of larger asteroids that have been colliding and grinding together over billions of years.

A competing theory states that the small objects formed as they appear today billions of years ago and have not changed much since then.

However, astronomers cannot offer a plausible mechanism for why these small asteroids do not accumulate more dust than the circumstellar disk that surrounded our sun billions of years ago (and from which the planets formed).

In addition, astronomers have known for some time that collisions may leave a certain signature that can be used to test the main belt's current population.

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In 2019, astronomers from European Center for Science and Technology (stick) and Scientific Data Center of the European Center for Space Astronomy ESDC has joined forces with the largest and most popular citizen science platform Zooniverse and Google to launch the Hubble Asteroid Hunter (HAH) citizen science project to identify asteroids in archival Hubble data.

This chart is based on archival Hubble Space Telescope data that has been used to identify a largely unseen group of very small asteroids. (NASA/ESA/P.J. Martin (AUM)/E. Whitley (STScI))

The HAH team consists of 11,482 citizen science volunteers who viewed 37,000 Hubble images over 19 years. After providing nearly two million identifications, the team was given a training set for an automated algorithm to identify asteroids based on machine learning. This yielded 1,701 asteroid tracks, of which 1,031 matched previously uncataloged asteroids – about 400 of which were less than 1 km (~1,090 ft) in size. He said Martin:

This yielded 1,701 asteroid tracks, of which 1,031 matched previously uncataloged asteroids – about 400 of which were less than 1 km (~1,090 ft) in size.

He said Martin:

“The positions of asteroids change over time, so you can't find them by just entering coordinates, because they might not be there at different times. As astronomers we don't have time to look at all the images of asteroids. So we got the idea to collaborate with more than 10,000 citizen science volunteers To view Hubble's vast archives.

This pioneering approach can be effectively applied to data sets accumulated by other asteroid observing observatories, such as NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

Once the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) collects a large enough data set, the same method can also be applied to its archival data.

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As a next step, the HAH project will examine the contours of previously unknown asteroids to characterize their orbits, rotation periods and other properties.

This article was originally published by The universe today. Read the Original article.