Russian scientists break ground in new asteriod discovery

A new name has appeared in the registry of minor planets. Researchers at the Ussuriysky Astrophysics Observatory of the Far Eastern chapter of the Russian Academy of Scientists have discovered a new asteroid.

The Russian scientists claim that they were lucky to have found such a discovery. The unique discovery was made possible thanks to the Hamilton system telescope, the most powerful in the Far East. That equipment was installed at the observatory last fall.

For the Ussuriysky scientists the discovery of the asteroid is a real joy, as it was the first time that specialists of that observatory have discovered a new space object among other objects in the Asteroid Belt. “We studied the space guest for several nights before coming to the sensational conclusion that that asteroid was unknown to the world”, said Alexey Matkin, one of the authors of the discovery, in his interview to the Voice of Russia.

“An asteroid is a common object which poses no threat to our civilization. At present time the orbital data regarding that asteroid is being studied in order to map a more precise orbit. It is the first asteroid to be discovered in the Far East and specifically at our astrophysics observatory”.

The size of the new asteroid does not exceed hundreds of meters. The Harvard International Minor Planet Center has already confirmed its discovery. The space stranger has received its own number in the catalogue, which has a registry of four and a half thousand minor space objects.

Based on the unique number which contains numbers and letters of the Latin alphabet, one can easily determine when this or that asteroid was discovered, explains Sergey Smirnov, a researcher at the main astronomical observatory in Pulkovo and vice-president of the Astro-geodetic Union of Russia.

“First of all a preliminary serial number is obtained. Its first four digits represent the calendar year. In our case it is 2014. Then follow Latin letters that reflect a two-week period during the year.

“The entire year is divided into 24 such time intervals. That is followed by digits that reflect the serial number inside that time interval. Only after this preliminary serial number an asteroid is assigned its permanent name. By that time a few decades can pass by. The majority of asteroids only have preliminary serial numbers and have no permanent name”.

Today, scientists discover up to 200 minor planets per year and only a small fraction of those discoveries are made by Russian researchers. The fact that the discovery was made in the Ussuriysky observatory is somewhat unexpected. Until recently the researchers at the observatory dealt with completely different issues, continues Sergey Smirnov.

“The Ussuriysky observatory was initially set up to observe the sun and the influence of the solar radiation on life on our planet. It is good that the subjects covered by the observatory were extended and astro-metric research was added. That was why the fact that it was at that observatory that the new asteroid was discovered is such a big joy for our entire scientific community”.

The new asteroid could possibly allow us to solve more mysteries of our Universe. The Russian scientist believes that it is necessary to determine what family that specific asteroid belongs to.

“Sometimes asteroid families are formed as a result of space catastrophes when various objects of the solar system clash with each other. Otherwise, if an asteroid passes closely to a large space object, such as Jupiter or Mars, dramatic changes in the orbit or even destruction can take place.

“In the distant past, billions of years ago in the early days of the history of our Solar system, such formation of asteroid families was especially powerful. But today we can often see the details of that stone-crushing in the gradual drifting apart of the objects of the same family”.

By the way, today the world astrophysics community is fighting to resolve another space mystery. The astronomers of the European Southern Observatory have managed to literally dissect the body of the Itokawa asteroid discovered in 1998. Thanks to extra-precise measurements the scientists have discovered that its various segments have different a density and structure. Despite the fact that the research continues, very few discoveries still have a great practical meaning, including the issue of fighting a potential asteroid threat.

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