Montreal – Because of the fragments of meteorites that settle there, the Earth is getting heavier every day by the equivalent of the Eiffel Tower, or about ten thousand tons.
World Asteroid Day, held annually on June 30, marks “the largest meteorite impact known in recent history,” which occurred on March 30, 1908 in Togonska, Russia, recalls Guillaume Paulin, technician astronomer at Parc National du Mont-Megantique.
The diameter of the asteroid ranged between 50 and 60 meters. He said it exploded in the atmosphere a few kilometers from the surface. There was no impact on the ground or a crater, but it was a very devastating event, and trees fell up to 2,000 kilometers away.”
Recently, another asteroid, this time much smaller, suffered the same fate on February 15, 2013, still in Russia. It happened in a populated area. The shock wave shattered the windows of the houses and several thousand pieces of glass were injured,” says Mr. Bolen.
If the odds of a large asteroid colliding with Earth head-on are slim, they still don’t exist.
However, technology makes it possible to calculate the trajectory of these rocky orbs.
According to Loïc Quesnel, coordinator of scientific activities at the Montreal Planetarium, the unexpected arrival into our atmosphere of an asteroid capable of destroying the planet, as we saw in some disaster films at the beginning of the millennium, is not that realistic.
“It has been at least twenty years since the sky is observed every night through automated images that track the movement of objects, making a relative communicator. Through these observations and calculations, we can more accurately detect asteroids that can cross the Earth’s orbit.
He continues, “At the moment, there is no actual stake. There is no specific risk for decades and even centuries to come.”
Learn from asteroids
Asteroid fragments are rich in history and learning.
On September 24, the Osiris-Rex probe is scheduled to return to Earth after a seven-year journey in space. She will bring with her a sample from the asteroid Bennu.
Since the Canadian Space Agency is a stakeholder in this unprecedented mission, having notably provided instruments for the probe, part of this sample will be studied in the country.
Mr. Bolin points out that “asteroids have changed very little since their formation, which dates back to the birth of the solar system. So they are remnants of it, and when we can study samples from them, we learn a lot about the conditions that contributed to the formation of the universe as we know it.”
cameras facing the sky
Beginners tend to confuse meteorite with meteorite and meteorite. In fact, it is the same thing in different cases, explains Mr. Quesnel.
“The asteroid is a large rock in space; the meteorite is the luminous phenomenon that occurs when the asteroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere; and the meteorite is a piece of rock that resisted disintegration and that will go to Earth,” he explains.
Recently inaugurated after several years of work, the DOME (Meteorological Detection and Monitoring) network of the Montreal Planetarium includes 11 cameras distributed in the south of the province, about a hundred kilometers from each other.
Their goal is to detect luminous events in the Quebec sky. It will then be analyzed by an algorithm that will attempt to determine its nature. In short, we are now documenting the movement of asteroids in real time in the sky.
“Before, we relied on testimonies from people who saw a luminous phenomenon,” says Mr. Quesnel. It was very difficult to have time for what was happening in the sky.
Tens of tons of material fall to Earth every day, usually in the form of dust since asteroids and meteorites are largely disintegrated during their entry into the atmosphere, which occurs thousands of kilometers an hour.
Each year, about twenty meteors end up in the province of Quebec. Since Quebec is so rich in forests and lakes, it can be difficult to find a meteorite trail. The DOME project will facilitate this process.
“What we’re trying to do is not detect large meteorites, but a light signature of a small meteorite hitting Earth,” explains Mr. Quesnell.
“If the camera detects an intense luminous phenomenon and other cameras record it, we can try to calculate the trajectory of the asteroid before it hits the Earth to determine where we can find the meteor,” he continues.
This post was produced with financial assistance from the Meta Exchange and The Canadian Press for News.