Give at least two reasons today’s astronomers are so interested in the discovery of additional Earth-approaching asteroids.
Suppose you were designing a spacecraft that would match course with an asteroid and follow along its orbit. What sorts of instruments would you put on board to gather data, and what would you like to learn?
Suppose you were designing a spacecraft that would match course with a comet and move with it for a while. What sorts of instruments would you put on board to gather data, and what would you like to learn?
Suppose a comet were discovered approaching the Sun, one whose orbit would cause it to collide with Earth 20 months later, after perihelion passage. (This is approximately the situation described in the science-fiction novel Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.) What could we do? Would there be any way to protect ourselves from a catastrophe?
We believe that chains of comet fragments like Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s have collided not only with the jovian planets, but occasionally with their moons. What sort of features would you look for on the outer planet moons to find evidence of such collisions? (As an extra bonus, can you find any images of such features on a moon like Callisto? You can use an online site of planetary images, such as the Planetary Photojournal, at photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov.)
Why have we found so many objects in the Kuiper belt in the last two decades and not before then?
Why is it hard to give exact diameters for even the larger objects in the Kuiper belt?