While Earth has experienced many tremors from asteroids striking our planet, new research by Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary science at the Massachusettes Institute of Technology, suggests many near-Earth asteroids experience a seismic jolt when they pass too close to our planet’s gravitational field.
“We are going to be looking closely for evidence of seismic activity on 2014 DA14 as it passes by,” Binzel said. “This is the first case of an object coming close enough to experience quakes and where we have enough notice to plan observations.”
The idea of asteroid-quakes came to Binzel when he was pondering a mystery about “space-weathered” asteroids. “As asteroids move through space, they slowly turn dark-red. This phenomenon, called ‘space weathering,’ is caused by long exposure to cosmic rays and solar radiation. For decades, however, we have known about a handful of small asteroids that looked light and fresh; they were not space weathered.”
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