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.

TODAY’S WORDS 今日單字

1. hazardous adj.

危險的 (wei2 xian3 de5)

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

(醫生警告喝太多酒對你的健康會有危險。)

2. disintegrate v.

解體 (jie2 ti3)

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

(坦克車被飛彈擊中後立即解體。)

3. catalogue v.

登記 (deng1 ji4)

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

(我們完成登記博物館裡所有的圖畫。)


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.

(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSLATION AND ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TAIJING WU)

一群台灣研究員參與美國夏威夷的計畫,本月發現一顆對地球有潛在威脅的小行星,距離地球最近的時候是二零九八年,這項發現為清點危險天體的重要一步。

在美國夏威夷大學的泛星計畫將這顆小型星命名為2010ST3,直徑只有約五十公尺,在太空的行進速度為每秒二十公里。當泛星計畫於九月十六日發現2010ST3時,它距離地球約三千兩百萬公里。這項計畫中有二十多位台灣研究員參與。

泛星計畫在台灣的主持人中央大學天文所陳文屏教授表示,雖然行星下個月將距離地球約六百四十萬公里,但是各種估算顯示,2010ST3於二零九八年將距離地球約五十萬公里,這種距離對於天體運行相當近,幾乎是擦身而過。

該計畫科學家傑地基博士傳回的資料顯示,2010ST3不會撞擊地球,但這項發現顯示泛星計畫,是目前搜尋潛在危險小行星計劃當中,居於最尖端的地位。

通常小行星在進入地球大氣層時會粉碎,但是爆炸震波仍然可摧毀幾百平方公里的區域。以直徑五十公尺的小行星而言,預估將在地表造成三百公尺大坑洞。

陳文屏教授說,「有一派理論表示,當時恐龍遭滅絕,起因可能就是地球遭行星撞擊。為了預防人類文明遭摧毀,我們有數種方式。」

根據陳教授,人們可用太空船推行星離開原本的軌道,讓它偏離與地球相撞的軌道,也可以發射火箭,讓火箭成為推動行星的引擎,將行星推開,甚至遇上彗星的話,也可以用強力的雷射光束照射,使彗星本體蒸發。

大部分體積較大的潛在危險小行星都已經被編表,但是科學家相信仍有為數眾多小於一、兩公里的小行星還沒有被發現,它們撞擊地球會造成區域性毀滅,撞擊頻率大概幾千年一次。

(自由時報記者湯佳玲,台北時報吳岱璟)

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