Space Threats


Team Number: 004

School Name: Alamogordo High School

Area of Science: Astrophysics

Project Title: Space Threats



Space Threats

Have you ever wondered why the dinosaurs, one of the longest living groups of animals, are extinct? Many people think it could have been caused by debris from outer space striking the Earth's surface. Which brings our group to this issue; could the same thing happen again? What potential threats could be in Earths future? With a catastrophe of this magnitude, what would happen to our civilization? This is an issue that we can't afford to ignore.Our group plans to plot the path of selected asteroids that could be possible (direct) threats to the Earth.

Aside from deciding the basic topic of our subject the first thing we did was find a mentor for our purposes. We found Robert Stellingwerf-an astrophysicist-who was very willing to help us. He helped us narrow down our choices for our subject topic. We also were lucky enough to speak to him at the kickoff of the AIS Challenge. He has been very helpful, quite cooperative through the beginning of our project, and just a great asset to our team.

Currently our mentor has been gracious enough too provide a program, which will give us the orbit of the Earth (over a course of time). In addition to that we have received some plotting software that we our currently trying to run. Among different members of our group we have been doing research. With some the focus is on programming while with others the focus is on choosing asteroids (or other space debris) or physics needed for the project.

As far as the programming goes there may be some effort in the future to surpass the skills being taught in the class we are in so that the program can be written as efficient as we see fit. In the future we most likely will study another previous experiment about a similar subject. This experiment was about "Lucifer's Hammer" an asteroid that is known because of its interactions of the Earth in the past, present, and future. In studying this experiment we could find some useful knowledge regarding programming and physics.

As of now one of the pieces of space debris we plan to follow the asteroid EROS-also known as asteroid #433-which has come close to earth before. It is an elongated Near-Earth Asteroid that is 21 by 8 by 8 miles (33 by 13 by 13 kilometers). The density of Eros is 2.4 grams per cubic centimeter, roughly the same as the density of Earth's crust.

We still have so much work to do on the project though. We need to get an asteroid orbit prediction program running that roughly follows the laws of physics. Also, we need to determine several good N.E.O. (Near Earth Object) candidates for us to monitor with our program, and need to find their size, average velocity, mass, and other statistics that would determine the way it travels. Though there are only a few processes required, we still must go through many steps to reach their points of completion.

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