Asteroids have families too. But this might be as much dangerous as it sounds to be cute. One rather odd family of asteroids was detected near the belt in between Mars and Jupiter and they are considered to be NEOs (Near Earth Objects) that could pose a threat to our planet.
NEOs come very close to Earth during their space trips around the Sun and astronomers have taken serious interest in this particular family to see if it is going to casually pass by or if it is going to change trajectory out of a sudden.
The researchers who are using NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) telescope have been keeping a close eye onto these celestial objects ever since they discovered them. They noticed that their trajectory comes very close to the ecliptic plain that is established to be Earth’s path.
NEOWISE practically measures the asteroids based on the heat the release when they make contact with sunrays. The telescope works with infrared and it is the best instrument that can be used to measure the asteroids.
This asteroid family is comprised of 14 hundred members and they are known as the Euphorosynes. They are named after Euphorosyne, one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt, which is thought to be responsible for one of the solar system’s last major collisions a few hundred million years back.
Tracking this family is quite difficult since the belt in between Mars and Saturn contains more than 700 thousand asteroids. They occasionally collide with each other, thus making their movements hard to follow and sometimes even unpredictable.
Joseph Masiero, the leader of the research team which has to carefully study this family of asteroids, mentioned that the Euphorosynes are in a location that makes them easy to spot quickly. The team is able to establish a path for these dark celestial bodies so that it could predict in time whether Earth would have to worry or not.
The amount of importance dedicated to the project can be identified by studying NEOWISE’s history. It was initially activated back in 2009 and shut down by the end of 2011, but once the asteroids were identified NEOWISE was put back into commission and established to be the main tool for this study.
You need not worry though. Based on current approximations, the asteroid family is not a threat to us. Still, it is better to keep a vigilant eye open just in case.
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