Thu, Sep 30, 2010 - Page 15 News List

Taiwan scientists contribute to asteroid discovery
小行星撞地球威脅 台灣參與發現

A group of Taiwanese researchers working on a project in Hawaii have contributed to the discovery of an asteroid that could be potentially hazardous to Earth. This discovery is an important step in the cataloguing of hazardous celestial objects.

The Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System) at the University of Hawaii has named the asteroid 2010ST3. It’s only about 50m in diameter, and it travels at 20kps. When 2010ST3 was first spotted on Sept. 16, it was still around 32 million km away from Earth. More than 20 Taiwanese researchers are working on the project.

Professor Chen Wen-ping from National Central University’s Graduate Institute of Astronomy is the principal investigator for Pan-STARRS in Taiwan. He told the Taipei Times that although 2010ST3 will be 6.4 million km from Earth next month, many estimates predict that it will brush past our planet in 2098 at only 500,000km, which is considered close for celestial bodies.

Dr. Robert Jedicke, a Pan-STARRS scientist, said that although this particular object won’t hit Earth in the immediate future, its discovery shows that Pan-STARRS is now the most sensitive system dedicated to discovering potentially dangerous asteroids.

Asteroids normally disintegrate when they enter Earth’s atmosphere, but the blast waves they produce are capable of destroying areas of hundreds of square kilometers, and an asteroid of this size could make a hole about 300m wide.

Professor Chen said, “There’s a theory which says that an asteroid collision caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. However, we have many ways of preventing human civilization from being wiped away.”

According to Professor Chen, mankind could either send spaceships to intercept a potentially hazardous asteroid and push it away from its original orbit, or launch a rocket to propel it away. A powerful laser beam would work to destroy a comet because once it had been blasted by the beam, the particles would evaporate in space.


1. hazardous adj.

危險的 (wei2 xian3 de5)

例: Doctors have warned that drinking too much alcohol can be hazardous to your health.


2. disintegrate v.

解體 (jie2 ti3)

例: The tank disintegrated as soon as it was struck by the missile.


3. catalogue v.

登記 (deng1 ji4)

例: We have finished cataloging all the pictures in the museum.


Most larger potentially hazardous asteroids have already been catalogued, but scientists believe that there are still many under one or two kilometers in diameter yet to be discovered. If such an object collided with Earth, it would cause serious regional destruction. Such collisions happen once every few thousand years.











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