Science

Hubble captures asteroid tracks; see photo

Marks of the trajectory of space objects were identified by program volunteers from the European Space Agency (ESA)

The Hubble space telescope captured the image of traces of the trajectory of two asteroids. Although the material highlights the conglomerate of stars in the AGC 111977 galaxy, located about 15 billion light-years away, when enlarging the image, it is possible to observe the signs of the rocky bodies represented by two lines in blue and orange in the lower right corner.


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According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the capture resulted from the combination of observations made by Hubble in November 2012. Asteroids moved in relation to the telescope during the observation and this caused the marks represented in the image. Although the tracks cross, it is worth mentioning that the asteroids did not collide. They were at different distances from the telescope.

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Traces of the asteroid trajectory detected by Hubble. Image: ESA

The trails were not detected by space agency officials, but by a group of volunteer civilian scientists who contribute to the Hubble Asteroid Hunter project. ESA’s initiative recruits citizens from all regions of the world to identify asteroids that are registered casually during Hubble observations.

The space agency says more than 9,000 volunteers have already produced 2 million classifications and identified 1,500 asteroid tracks. In the first phase of the project, the volunteers received help from the ESASky system, which indicates the chances of an object crossing the Hubble field of view during a given observation.

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In addition to the asteroids, participants also identified trails left by satellites in orbits higher than Hubble’s, as well as the occurrence of gravitational lenses. These phenomena are characterized by distortions in space-time caused by the presence of a massive body between an object and an observer.

Currently, volunteers are dedicated to identifying the asteroids corresponding to the trails found in the images and calculating the distance of these rocky bodies from Earth. For this they make comparisons with the Minor Planet Center database.

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