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Space Science

A Hyper-Velocity Impact In the Asteroid Belt? 114

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-played-that-game dept.
astroengine writes "Astronomers have spotted something rather odd in the asteroid belt. It looks like a comet, but it's got a circular orbit, similar to an asteroid. Whether it's an asteroid or a comet, it has a long, comet-like tail, suggesting something is being vented into space. Some experts think it could be a very rare comet/asteroid hybrid being heated by the sun, but there's an even more exciting possibility: It could be the first ever observation of two asteroids colliding in the asteroid belt."
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A Hyper-Velocity Impact In the Asteroid Belt?

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  • Spock: Gas! Gas Captain.

    • by Zarf (5735)

      First time I heard that line I thought he was complaining about the beans.

      • by CTalkobt (81900)
        This is the first time I've heard it (or remember hearing it more likely) ... it sounded to me like he was asking for the Captain to be killed. (Wouldn't Spock be a fun character on Dexter turning into a homicidal vulcan psychopath? )
        • (Wouldn't Spock be a fun character on Dexter turning into a homicidal vulcan psychopath? )

          [Excerpt from police interview]
          Spock:
          The captain has been bossing me around for years, putting me in harms way, and worst of all, trying to evoke responses from my human side... It was only logical that I put an end to this madness.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by nitehawk214 (222219)

          (Wouldn't Spock be a fun character on Dexter turning into a homicidal vulcan psychopath? )

          Well, considering the new Spock is played by the guy who plays Sylar... not much of a stretch of the imagination at all.

      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by niktemadur (793971)

        First time I heard that line I thought he was complaining about the beans.

        Suit yourself, but somehow I enjoy thinking it's all about the heapin' helpin' of garbanzos Spock scoops up in the Enterprise cafeteria's salad bar. Vulcans just can't get enough of that Terran delicacy, smothered in Thousand Island dressing and a thick crust of black pepper. The first time Uhura and Sulu saw Spock doing that, they were like "whoa!", while Chekov was like "ay yay yay!".
        Scotty grimaced, stole a quick gulp of whiskey

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:44AM (#30819808)
    A collision between asteroids? Who wants to bet a woman was driving one of them?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jhoegl (638955)
      Your cowardly anonymization brings to light the heart of the matter, does one want to admit to being the one that called out the women drivers of the world?

      Regardless, you should feel safe on slashdot.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        does one want to admit to being the one that called out the women drivers of the world

        Well, yes. My girlfriend and wife both agree that woman are terrible drivers, hence I do all the driving on any trip.

        • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @01:06PM (#30820980) Journal

          My girlfriend and wife both agree that woman are terrible drivers, hence I do all the driving on any trip.

          That's funny, the last time I was with your wife and girlfriend they did all the driving, if ya know what I mean...... ;)

        • by SQLGuru (980662)

          "My girlfriend and wife both agree that woman are terrible drivers, hence I do all the driving on any trip."

          I doubt you have both a girlfriend *AND* a wife seeing as you are Slashdot.

          Either way, though, this is really just a ploy for them to nap while you drive all 12 hours of the trip. It's not agreeing, it's manipulation.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Sadly I do (see my other post) ... funnily enough when I was single I looked at all those guys with more than one woman and thought "Man, I wish I had their problems"...

            I now look at all those guys with no woman and think the very same thing
          • I doubt you have both a girlfriend *AND* a wife seeing as you are Slashdot.

            Shouldn't that have been:

            "I doubt you have both a girlfriend *OR* a wife seeing as you are Slashdot"?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by IrquiM (471313)

            Anything goes in Second Life!

    • by jackalope (99754)

      A collision between asteroids? Who wants to bet a woman was driving one of them?

      According to this recent article, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=pregnant-brain-as-racecar [scientificamerican.com] , they (at least the pregnant or postpartum) have a lot more on their minds than us simple menfolk.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jimbolauski (882977)
      All asteriods could be women, up until now no asteroid has been seen venting gas.
  • The Alpha Centari battlestar is venting waste prior to invasion...

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jhoegl (638955)
      For the love of god... somebody kick these nerds asses!
    • by tuxgeek (872962)

      You're close, this is exactly how the movie Armageddon starts
      A comet roaring through the asteroid belt knocks loose a chunk the size of texas and sends it hurdling towards earth

      Anybody got the phone number of Bruce Willis?

    • by mjwx (966435)

      The Alpha Centari battlestar is venting waste prior to invasion...

      Nonsense, we've been at peace with the Centari since 1947. They wouldn't dare invade now.

  • by happy_place (632005) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:49AM (#30819876) Homepage
    They don't generally collide!? What about when the Millenium Falcon hid in one? Does that mean the Empire Strikes Back was all made up? Next thing you're going to tell me that there aren't giant space eels living in the bigger rocks. (Places fingers in ears and sings loudly Star Wars theme song)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by camperdave (969942)
      Relax! That was Long Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. Our asteroid belt is boring, with every rock more or less tidally locked to each other. Their asteroid belt is dynamic and exciting, and filled with hungry, hungry space eels.
      • Also the force of gravity used to be much less extreme, even at close distances, so our asteroid field is actually much more sparse, otherwise it would quickly coalesce into a planet.

      • Monty ref (Score:1, Funny)

        by M8e (1008767)

        Their asteroid belt is dynamic and exciting, and filled with hungry, hungarian space eels in hovercrafts!

      • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:40PM (#30822400)

        Our asteroid belt is boring, with every rock more or less tidally locked to each other.

        It's also a lot sparser than a lot of people realize--enormously more empty than any representation you see on film, TV or video games. You could fly through it and never see an asteroid with the naked eye except as a point of light.

    • can you possibly understand what grave implications this has in store for superman? the kryptonite is coming!

    • by Suki I (1546431)
      Wrong Galaxy! It's the RDA ship co0ming back from Pandora. They picked a different time in the continuum to plot a new strategy for taking unobtanium from the Na'vi.
    • by Gilmoure (18428)

      Here's a copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special. Art Carney ROCKS!

  • They just should have slammed down the 'Hyperspace' button...sigh...

    • by zztong (36596)

      You're right, plus the article doesn't make any sense. Asteroids just pass through one another.

  • What way did the other one go? Time to call Bruce Willis, methinks.
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      If the observed one keeps doing a circular orbit, then probably the other didnt had mass enough to move it, so probably is small enough to not worry about it, even if by extremely low odds is coming here.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      What way did the other one go? Time to call Bruce Willis,

      Cant we send up John Travolta and Tom Cruise instead. There's still a chance Willis could make a decent movie.

  • Silly spaceballs and their ludacris speed foiling our scientists and their methods.
  • So... did this collision send anything in our direction?

  • Lateral spray (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Seems to me that an asteroid collision would most likely produce lateral debris spray that would be more tangential to the orbit than perpendicular to it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The tail isn't a debris spray. It's a spray of sublimating ice that was recently exposed by an impact, but had previously been covered by less volatile material.

  • It could also be that a spaceship has arrived in our solar system and they are using the asteroid belt to decelerate...
  • If the scientists are coming up with such dull scenarios, how can they motivate the youngsters into science?

    It is well known that when rebels jump into hyperspace to escape the pursuing imperial battle cruisers, they might pop out in an asteroid belt. But most people think it is always possible to negotiate the craft around it and escape. Such false notions are strengthened by reports of more manuevrable craft deliberately entering asteroid belts to escape pursuit. But they don't always succeed and they

  • What exactly do they mean by hyper-velocity? Are we witnessing a collision between two objects whose velocities add up to more than the speed of light? Eg. one coming in from the left at 3/4c and one coming in from the left at 3/4c.
    • What exactly do they mean by hyper-velocity?

      It's exponentially more than extreme velocity.

    • Re:Hyper-Velocity (Score:5, Informative)

      by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:13PM (#30821924) Journal
      Okay. Apparently hypervelocity [wikipedia.org] is an actual astronomy and/or material sciences term:

      The term hypervelocity usually refers to a very high velocity, approximately over 3,000 meters per second (6,700 mph, 11,000 km/h, 10,000 ft/s, or Mach 8.8). In particular, it refers to velocities so high that the strength of materials upon impact is very small compared to inertial stresses. Thus, even metals behave like fluids under hypervelocity impact. Extreme hypervelocity results in vaporization of the impactor and target.

    • by DrVxD (184537)

      Eg. one coming in from the left at 3/4c and one coming in from the left at 3/4c.

      If they're both coming from the left at 0.75c, then their relative velocity will be zero....

  • Han said ..."Without precise calculations... we'd fly right through a star, bounce too close to a supernova, and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?"
  • by AP31R0N (723649)

    Subby, what the fuck is so hard about forming a complete sentence? If you're going to resort to a lame ass question headline, could you at least make it a question that ASKS SOMETHING?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      Humans are good at context recognition. We can often gather information when data is missing or incomplete as much of human speech is effectively redundant. Thus, we can often complete a . In this case, the incomplete sentence made the headline shorter and made it very clear what was being communicated. The headline communicated that there may have been an asteroid collision but that scientists were very unsure. Headlines frequently use sentence fragments so we can quickly scan over them and see if we are i
  • by SnarfQuest (469614) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @12:32PM (#30820490)

    Does it happen to look like a Big Boy statue? Maybe it's Dr. Evil coming back.

  • What?! Someone was going to do this sooner or later... Don't kill the messenger!
  • by Maltheus (248271) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @12:53PM (#30820784)

    How is an asteroid collision more exciting than some kind of funky, very rare asteroid/comet hybrid?

    • As a kid, which was more fun - a rock that looked different from other rocks, or smashing a big rock on an even bigger rock?

      Adults are just big children. Collisions may not be more interesting, but they'll always be more exciting.

    • by aug24 (38229)

      Asteroid collisions can produce big delta-V effects.

      Big lumps of rock fall towards sun.

      Earth is in the way.

      We live on Earth.

      HTH.

      J.

  • by FreakerSFX (256894) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @01:02PM (#30820930)

    Seriously...not anything big but something Tunguska sized would do, especially over a moderately populated area.

    We spend peanuts on detecting potential collisions that could be the cause of the next extinction event. Mark my words, there'll be more money spent on earthquake analysis for Haiti and other "sensational" causes than will be spent on detecting PHOs (potentially hazardous objects) in the next 10 years. I am not denigrating the need to spend money on Haiti - that's a tragedy for sure - but when you look at how reactive we are with public money (New Orleans, anyone? Despite warnings, no one saw this coming?) when a much smaller amount spent up-front would potentially save not just a lot more lives but a lot more money....if better building codes had been in force in Haiti - how many more people would have survived? How much money would have been saved?

    I despair for our race. If we saw a dinosaur killer coming and had a program in place already we could probably survive it. Asteroids move slowly but are heavy and require a lot of time/energy to deflect so we would see them early and be able to react...comets move much, much faster but are lighter so presumably if we had the detection gear and a few mass drivers in space already, we could deal with it in a safe time frame.

    So give us our Haiti or Katrina from space, please. Make it hurt but not too much - just enough to wake up the people handing out government cash.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by FreakerSFX (256894)
    • by durrr (1316311)
      Make it fall on the people handing out goverment cash, the irony would not go unnoticed among their replacements.
    • by Orne (144925) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @01:57PM (#30821696) Homepage

      Scenario 1: Asteroid strike. I defer to NASA JPL [nasa.gov], the Tunguska event (100-meter class = ~ 15 mil tons TNT) asteroid occurs once or twice / 1000 years. A 1000-meter class is 1 in 15 million years. An 8000-meter class (dinosaur killer) is 1 in 50-100 million years.

      Scenario 2: Earthquake. San Francisco [usgs.gov] has an annual forecast of earthquake probabilities, and they predict a 68% probability of a 6.7 Magnitude or greater in the next 30 years. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] gives a probability scale for earthquakes, where a Magnitude 7 (similar to what struke Haiti) occurs 18 / year. A single 6.7 earthquake (P = 120/year) is equivalent to 16 kilotons of energy, or about 1 Tungaska event (P = 0.004/year).

      Given the disparity in the probability of asteroid strikes (on populated areas, no less) vs earthquakes, it should be no surprise that the world governments believe money is better spent on earthquake prediction and evacuation relief, not on asteroid strike detection. The "bang for the buck" is clearly higher in earthquake spending.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FreakerSFX (256894)

        From an open letter to congress, here:

        http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=9866 [spaceref.com]

        "We cannot rely on statistics alone to protect us from catastrophe; such a strategy is like refusing to buy fire insurance because blazes are infrequent. Our country simply cannot afford to wait for the first modern occurrence of a devastating NEO impact before taking steps to adequately address this threat. We may not have the luxury of a second chance, for time is not necessarily on our side. If we do not act now, and w

      • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:46PM (#30823470) Journal

        Given the disparity in the probability of asteroid strikes (on populated areas, no less) vs earthquakes, it should be no surprise that the world governments believe money is better spent on earthquake prediction and evacuation relief, not on asteroid strike detection. The "bang for the buck" is clearly higher in earthquake spending.

        1. An earthquake affects a relatively small population.

        2. A single dinosaur killer could wipe out humanity.

        3. Probability for all these events approaches 1 as time goes on.

        In light of the above your "bang for buck" argument is silly. It's like counting the pennies while sitting on the railroad track with your back turned to a huge locomotive with blaring sirens that's about to hit you at 100km/hr and arguing that it costs too much to turn around and look at how close it is, never mind get off your ass and out of the way of the train.

        • by phliar (87116)

          And what exactly do you suppose we puny humans can do about that "huge locomotive with blaring sirens that's about to hit [us]"? We can neither deflect the "locomotive" (your "dinosaur killer"), nor can we get out of the way (move the whole planet).

          Not like there's anything we can do about preventing earthquakes either.

          But even if we had the ability, do we have the wherewithal to actually do anything about either asteroids or earthquakes? We're demonstrating how good we are about ignoring the future and

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by syousef (465911)

            And what exactly do you suppose we puny humans can do about that "huge locomotive with blaring sirens that's about to hit [us]"? We can neither deflect the "locomotive" (your "dinosaur killer"), nor can we get out of the way (move the whole planet).

            We can't deflect it in the stupid way portrayed in movies, but we may well be able to change it's trajectory. How do we know? Have we spent any significant time or resources trying to find a way? Your defeatist attitude is awful, and we'd never have survived as

        • by srothroc (733160)
          I don't think the "bang for your buck" argument is silly because it's an incredibly common fallacy that no doubt affects the people making the decisions as well. The fact that it's fallacious makes it no less a motivating factor for those who control our money.
    • by DrVxD (184537)

      especially over a moderately populated area.

      I believe it's traditional for this kind of thing to land on Phoenix, AZ.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @01:04PM (#30820956)

    Everyone knows the asteroids pass right through each other. It's either been shot or it has collided with a ship.

    Honestly, what kind of education are scientists getting these days?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Rick Genter (315800)

      Those who moderated the parent "Insightful" should be meta-moderated as either "Clueless" or "Humorless".

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Katatsumuri (1137173)
        The mods sometimes do mod a good joke "Informative" or "Insightful" to add more fun to it, in this case suggesting the classic Asteroids game physics were real. I'm not sure who is "Clueless" or "Humorless" in this case.
        • The mods sometimes do mod a good joke "Informative" or "Insightful" to add more fun to it

          It's true. It's unfortunate when people don't "get" satirical moderation.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by ByteSlicer (735276)
          Actually, they mostly do it to reward the poster since Funny mods don't increase karma, but Informative or Insightful mods do. Something that's modded to +5 Funny and then modded Overrated a few times will even burn the poster's karma. But yes, it's also humorous in most cases.
    • Hmm. Has anyone done a physics-based remake of Asteroids?
      • Think about that for a minute, and you'll realize why it hasn't been done.

        You'd fly for a long, long time in mostly empty space. When you found an asteroid, most of them would be too large for any conceivable weapon to significantly affect, and the smaller ones wouldn't just break in half, they'd break into hundreds or thousands of smaller chunks, traveling in all directions at high speeds. And those saucers? You'd never even see them, because they'd engage you at a range of several light seconds with beam

        • > Real physics is cool, but it doesn't often make for good arcade games.

          He wrote *physics* based, not *astronomy* based.

          • > Real physics is cool, but it doesn't often make for good arcade games.

            He wrote *physics* based, not *astronomy* based.

            And, just to clarify, I'll settle for unreal game "physics" - I just want to see asteroids bouncing off each other instead of passing through.

            Modelling light-speed propagation, quantum mechanics and/or quantum gravitation are strictly in the nice-to-have basket.

  • by xupere (1680472)
    Well, where do you think baby asteroids come from?
  • Someone achieved to capture it on video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZfsnA7dAHI [youtube.com]
    Unbelievable. I wonder what that thing in the middle is...

  • I wonder if it's something braking before it gets into the inner planets...

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