An international team of astronomers has revealed how the near-Earth objects (NFOs) or asteroids destroy upon reaching closer to the sun. A couple of years ago, scientists found that a large number of asteroids were missing from the central zone of the solar system. The main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter consists of over a million space rocks. Researchers said the expected numbers of these space rocks could also be found in the neighborhood of Earth, Mercury and Venus.
Asteroids don’t plunge into the solar body
However, there were much fewer asteroids than expected in the area near the sun. Astronomers could find only one asteroid for every 10 they expected to find within 10 solar diameters of the sun. According to a study published in the journal Nature, these objects appear to disintegrate when they get too close to the sun. Instead of plunging into the solar body, they are destroyed while still being far from the sun.
Scientists from the US, Finland, France and the Czech Republic were working to create an improved model for all the near-Earth objects in the solar system. Most of the NEOs originate in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. An NEO is a comet or asteroid whose orbit takes it into the vicinity of the Earth. To create the new model, scientists used observations of 9,000 NEOs from 100,000 images taken by the Catalina Sky Survey over eight years.
The new model successfully matched the data in all regions of the solar system except the area closest to the sun. Robert Jedicke of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy said, “Something didn’t feel right.” So, they went back to work and double-checked all their calculations for more than a year. Eventually, they were convinced that the discrepancy between the data and their model was real.
Brighter asteroids stay intact
Then they started exploring where all the space rocks they were expecting to see had gone. Mikael Granvik of the University of Helsinki and lead author of the study proposed that asteroids must have disintegrated upon getting closer to the sun, but before they would have plunged into the solar body. Further analysis supported his theory. The Catalina Sky Survey data showed that smaller asteroids disappear farther from the sun than their larger counterparts.
Astronomers also found that brighter asteroids that reflect more light stay intact even after reaching closer to the sun compared to the dark ones that absorb light.