Royal Observatory of Belgium helps determine orbits of over 150,000 asteroids

Royal Observatory of Belgium helps determine orbits of over 150,000 asteroids
Asteroids from Gaia's latest data release. Credit: the European Space Agency.

The Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB) announced that it determined the orbits and positions of a large group of asteroids through its collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).

During a press conference on Monday, the ESA's Gaia mission published its third major data set with the goal of creating a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way to better comprehend our galaxy's history and structure.

Among these findings was the calculation of the precise orbits of over 150,00 asteroids by the ROB. Based on these trajectories, astronomers can better calculate an asteroid's position and predict how close it will pass by Earth.

More precise calculations

In the past, when an asteroid passed over a star, its shadow could be seen from Earth, yet no one was able to accurately predict the origin of this shadow, with estimates often being a hundred kilometre off the mark. Now, thanks to the ROB's calculations, the forecast can be more precise.

As a result, the public can be informed about where and when an asteroid will pass by a star, and eager onlookers will be able to take out their telescopes to observe it.

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These observations are also extremely helpful for astronomers because scientists will be able to determine the physical properties of the asteroid if enough time passes between its disappearance and return.

Furthermore, and most importantly, even if no asteroid is currently on a collision course with Earth, determining their orbits would allow scientists to better plan a defence strategy to avert the danger.

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