Asteroids On Mars - They May Have Made Mars' Sand
The gradual wearing away of rocks through time is the process that gives rise to new deposits of sand on Earth.
But violent asteroids on Mars may affect how much new sand is made on the planet.
Rock-like objects that orbit the sun but are not quite large enough to be classified as planets are called asteroids.
In some circles, they are also referred to as small planets or planetoids.
Asteroids come in sizes ranging from hundreds of miles to just a few feet wide, and there are millions of them.
The combined mass of all of the asteroids is significantly less than that of the moon orbiting Earth.
Asteroids are stony bodies that orbit the Sun and are too tiny to have an atmosphere.
There are a few things that you might not know about these planet-like celestial bodies that have the potential to collide with Earth and cause disaster. Here are those facts:
A lot of astronomers think that asteroids are pieces of rock that were left over after the solar system was put together 4.6 billion years ago.
There is a theory that suggests that after the Big Bang, dust particles gathered together through a process called accretion to produce celestial objects.
This means that smaller things come together with other smaller objects to create larger space rocks.
Some of these planetary bodies were able to expand to a size where they could generate their own gravity and grow large enough to become planets.
The gravitational pull of Jupiter prevented a great number of others from coming together at the same time.
These eventually evolved into asteroids.
Asteroids are frequently referred to as planetoids or "small planets" due to the fact that they also go around the Sun in the same way that planets do.
The majority of the solar system's millions of asteroids can be located in an area that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
The name given to this region is the Asteroid Belt.
If you picture the Asteroid Belt as it is depicted in movies, do you see it as a narrow band of space that is filled with enormous rocks that are trying to destroy your spaceship?
Imagine it once more, for the Asteroid Belt is nothing like what you've conjured up. In point of fact, it is a remote and desolate location for an asteroid.
Astronomers estimate that the typical distance between any two asteroids is somewhere in the neighborhood of 966,000 kilometers.
This is roughly equivalent to a distance of 2.5 times that which separates the Earth and the Moon.
That is a significant amount of distance between the two asteroids that are in close proximity.
There are many asteroids that orbit the sun outside of the Asteroid Belt, even though this belt is home to the majority of the known asteroids.
For instance, Trojan Asteroids, so-called because of the Trojan Wars that took place in Greek mythology, travel in the same orbit as their namesake planet.
Jupiter has two clusters of Trojans that follow its orbit around the Sun; the cluster that is in front of the planet is referred to as the Greek Camp, while the cluster that is behind the planet is referred to as the Trojan Camp.
In 2010, researchers found the very first Trojan Asteroid, designated 2010 TK7, which orbits the Earth in the same direction.
Near Earth Asteroids are asteroids that are driven into orbits that are somewhat close to those of the Earth.
The diameter of an asteroid can range anywhere from a few feet to several hundred kilometers.
Ceres is the largest known asteroid, with an estimated diameter of around 590 miles (950 kilometers).
If all of the asteroids in the Solar System were brought together into one massive rock, astronomers believe that the size of the resulting object would be far smaller than the moon.
There are approximately 150 asteroids that are known to have one or more moons orbiting them at this time.
The most well-known of these is the moon Dactyl, which is located in orbit around the Asteroid Belt asteroid Ida.
Based on their make-up, the vast majority of asteroids are classified as belonging to one of three categories: C, S, or M types.
How far away the asteroid was from the sun when it formed is a big part of figuring out what chemicals it is made of.
According to some estimates, almost two-thirds of all asteroids are of the C class.
The composition of these asteroids is thought to be similar to that of the Sun because they have an albedo of about 0.06, which makes them very dark.
They are located on the outskirts of the Asteroid Belt in their natural habitat.
The average albedo of S-type asteroids is 0.16, making them noticeably brighter than other types.
Iron and magnesium silicates make up the bulk of these asteroids, which can typically be found in the inner portions of the Asteroid Belt.
There is a population of M-type asteroids in the middle of the Asteroid Belt, and they have an albedo that is significantly higher than the average of 0.19.
Iron constitutes the majority of these objects.
The concept of extracting resources from asteroids is no longer considered science fiction.
Asteroids have a lot of metals like iron, platinum, and titanium, which humans use every day to build and make things.
In addition, experts think that the water that is present on the surface of these asteroids could be vaporized and used as fuel for space vehicles if the right conditions were met.
Even though mining asteroids has not yet begun, several businesses all over the world have begun investigating the possibility of doing so seriously.
The Earth's atmosphere acts as a shield, protecting its people from asteroids and other space debris.
In most cases, a meteoroid will disintegrate upon entry into the atmosphere and will not reach the surface of the Earth.
The term "meteorite" refers to any piece of the meteoroid that makes it to Earth's surface after the meteoroid impacts.
On occasion, though, far larger objects in space will run into the atmosphere of the Earth and cause impacts on the surface of the planet.
Researchers have found about 100 places on Earth where a big comet or asteroid might have hit.
Although no humans have been killed by a meteorite in recent history, there is some worry among the scientific community about the possibility of a large asteroid impact and the effect that it may have on human life.
This worry is based on the fact that no humans have been killed by a meteorite in recent history.
Since the Earth was made, about 4.5 billion years ago, it has been hit by comets and asteroids over and over again.
NASA says it is very unlikely that the asteroids that pose the biggest threat to Earth will ever hit.
An asteroid would have to be wider than a quarter of a mile for it to be able to cause a worldwide disaster.
Researchers say that such an impact would send enough dust into the air to cause a "nuclear winter," which would be very bad for agriculture all over the world.
NASA officials estimate that huge asteroids don't hit Earth on average more frequently than once every thousand decades.
A new study reveals that glass spheres formed in the tremendous heat of impacts make up to 25% of the Martian sand.
According to planetary scientist Briony Horgan and colleagues from Purdue University, as wind-blown sand sculpts the Martian surface, this discovery shows how asteroid impacts continue to shape Mars long after the collisions take place.
The team will talk about its findings at the 85th Annual Meeting of the Meteorological Society, which will be held on August 18 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Horgan and his team were able to figure out what minerals were in the sand on Mars by looking at the different wavelengths of visible and infrared light that were reflected from the surface of the planet.
They did this by using data from satellites in orbit around Mars.
The team discovered glass traces all around the world, but especially at higher latitudes.
Volcanic eruptions, which are known to make glass when magma and water meet, could be one explanation for all that glass.
Researchers note that there are almost no volcanoes in the northern plains of Mars, which have the most glass.
That rules out volcanic eruptions as the cause in that area and suggests that something much worse, like an asteroid strike, may be to blame.
Steven Goderis, a geochemist from Belgium's Vrije Universiteit Brussel who was not involved in the study, says it seems like a reasonable explanation.
However, there is also a substantial impact that is frequently disregarded.
The impact of a fast-moving asteroid, traveling at a speed of several kilometers per second on a rocky planet like Mars, releases so much energy that it melts adjacent rocks and sends them rocketing into space.
As it cools, the molten shrapnel breaks apart into particles about the size of a sand grain and roughly spherical in shape.
Glass shards, known as impact spherules, fall to the Earth like rain.
Small, stony objects called asteroids orbit the Sun.
Despite orbiting the Sun similarly to planets, asteroids are far smaller than planets.
Asteroids are numerous in our solar system.
The majority of them are found in the main asteroid belt, which is situated between Mars' and Jupiter's orbits.
The primary reason we study asteroids is that, as the precursors to planets, they may provide us with information on the formation of the Solar System.
During the process of planet formation, asteroids and other pieces of rock come together to form what are called minor planets. These then grow into planets.
According to NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies, there are 26,115 asteroids that pass by Earth every year.
There are more than 2,000 Near Earth Asteroids that could be deadly (NEAs). 158 are 2.5 times taller than the Empire State Building and have a diameter of more than one kilometer.
Asteroids travel through space at incredible speeds.
Asteroids move at varying speeds based on how far they are from the sun.
The pace increases as they get closer to one another.
However, even asteroids that cross the Earth, known as NEOs, move at a speed of about 25 kilometers per second.
Horgan and her coworkers think that asteroid impacts may have left a layer of impact spherules on the surface of Mars that is about half a meter thick.
The sand on Mars is a result of natural erosion plus all that material added to it.
Sand was "continuously supplied to the surface over time" due to "impacts," as Horgan puts it.
Someday, researchers may get their hands on some Martian impact spherules to study.
NASA's Perseverance rover is now storing soil and rock samples from Mars so that they can be sent to Earth in the future.
Horgan exclaims, "That's fascinating!" As the saying goes, "This is written in the sand."