Scientists have found more than 1,700 asteroid tracks that could help us know more about how the planets form

07/05/2022
Credit: ESA - Combining artificial intelligence with many keen human eyes, astronomers have found 1701 new asteroid trails in archival data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, consisting of more than 37 000 images that span two decades. The project reflects both Hubble’s value to scientists as an asteroid hunter and how the public can effectively contribute to citizen science initiatives.
Credit: ESA - Combining artificial intelligence with many keen human eyes, astronomers have found 1701 new asteroid trails in archival data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, consisting of more than 37 000 images that span two decades. The project reflects both Hubble’s value to scientists as an asteroid hunter and how the public can effectively contribute to citizen science initiatives.

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 07 May 2022, at 09:59 am Los Angeles time

Three years ago, in 2019, on the International Day of Asteroids in June, some researchers launched the Hubble Asteroid Hunter project.

This project aims to identify asteroids in Hubble's current databases.

The project was developed by scientists at the European Center for Science and Technology (ESTEC) and the European Center for Space Astronomy (ESDC), in collaboration with the Zooniverse platform, the largest and most popular citizen science platform in the world, and Google.

They found 37,000 images from ACS and WFC3 tools between 2002 and 2022.

A large audience of over 11,400 members analyzed the images and discovered more than 1,000 asteroid tracks.

Then, scientists used some algorithms, according to ESA, so that citizen science combined with artificial intelligence to come up with a final result of 1701 asteroid paths.

The new discoveries can be added to those already existing in the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, the largest existing database of objects in the Solar System.

"This left 1031 unidentified trails that are faint and likely to be smaller asteroids than those detected in ground-based surveys," said ESA.

It is believed that most of these traces are from the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which contains most asteroids in the Solar System.

On the other hand, scientists can know more about the past of our Solar System, especially how the planets formed, just by using the newly discovered asteroid tracks.

Many of the new asteroid paths, as well as the old ones, belong to small asteroids, difficult for astronomers to notice.

Therefore, the project to track asteroids using the Hubble Telescope will continue, analyzing, in particular, the 1,031 asteroid tracks previously found.

They can find out the distance of asteroids from us, using an effect called parallax.

In addition, astronomers could determine their orbits with the help of traces left behind.

Since most observations of asteroid tracks are 30 minutes long, scientists suggest much longer observations to find important data that would lead them to the beginnings and formations of the planets in the solar system, including Earth.

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