Locating asteroids traveling through the solar system
Collisions in space are actually rare events
Astronomy News – Locating smaller celestial objects in the night sky is harder and time-consuming, but with a little patience and perception all star-gazers, both amateur and professional, can journey to a nearby asteroid traveling through the solar system to view these smaller travelers through time and space.
How do astronomers locate small and distant celestial bodies traveling through the darkness of the solar system at speeds beyond human experience? We’ll use the story of asteroid Hebe 6 to illustrate the methods and techniques professional astronomers and even amateur astronomers can use to find asteroids in the darkness of space and time.
Astronomers are always looking for collisions
In the solar system’s distant past, two asteroids traveling through the inner solar system collided in an explosion resulting in the formation of a huge cloud of floating debris. Fast forward to present time, these same pieces of space debris came falling to Earth one by one as meteorites. Scientists collecting the remains of these meteorites were able to follow the facts collected from their studies of these meteorites back to the source of the debris, Hebe 6.
Surprisingly, astronomers believe about 40 percent of the meteorites falling to Earth, share this same story of genesis from Hebe 6, during a collision with another unknown object in the darkness of the solar system in the distant past.
Hebe 6 appears to have survived the collision, and there haven’t been any estimates of the volume of debris comprising the dust cloud resulting from this distant collision in space and time, so scientists have no real way of determining the original size of Hebe 6, so far. Hebe 6 still spans at least 120 miles and shines at 8th magnitude, so using your time-machine-to-the-stars you should be able to view Hebe 6. Travel to your favorite dark sky spot for this adventure, you’ll need to point your viewer at 2nd magnitude star Beta Ceti. You’ll find Beta Ceti southeast of Jupiter in October’s southern night sky, just star-hop westward to 7 Ceti and then jump 2 degrees south to find Hebe 6. How will you know you have located Hebe 6 and not a background star? To make sure of the identity of Hebe 6, note the positions of the objects closest to your target, and then return in a couple of hours. Recheck the positions of the objects you recorded, if you’re found Hebe 6, your target will have moved relative to the objects you have noted close by in the night sky.