What Are Asteroids? (02:48)
Asteroids are debris remaining from the solar nebula that created our planetary system; they contain information regarding the era.
Originating Processes (03:37)
The most powerful telescopes on Earth capture only blurred images of asteroids. Scientists study meteorites to gain understanding about composition; elemental differences reveal how individual rocks formed. Prof. Richard Binzel explains the violent creation of a rock from the main belt.
Collision Research (07:11)
Richard Kowalski hunts for asteroids from the Catalina Mountains. He discovers 3,000 bodies nightly. Pete Shultz uses NASA’s Vertical Gun to study impact dynamics.
Catalina Sky Survey (02:27)
Kowalski divides space into blocks, programming his telescope to observe and report on each section. He tracks moving objects, immediately filing a report with the Minor Planet Centre regarding potentially hazardous asteroids.
Minor Planet Centre (04:30)
Dr. Tim Spahr endeavors to track and map every asteroid in the solar system using advanced monitoring technologies. He is most concerned with near-Earth bodies, particularly those over a kilometer in size; 900 of them are near the planet’s orbit.
Mysterious Discoveries (07:25)
Dave Jewitt discovered Elst-Pizarro in the 1990s; it behaved differently than other rocks within the Main Asteroid Belt. Its unique tail is formed from ice, previously believed to be present exclusively on comets.
Transforming the Planet (06:38)
When Earth formed, it was hot and dry, with a molten surface. Scientists believe a bombardment of icy asteroids delivered the water that now covers 70% of its surface. Dr. Andy Rivkin used an infrared telescope to detect surface composition of 24 Themis.
Earthling Origins (03:23)
Dr. Scott Sanford life formation experiments result in the creation of rudimentary building blocks. He examines meteorite samples, finding organic compounds. Sanford asserts that asteroids could have delivered fundamental proteins to Earth.
Small Bodies and Big Threats (03:34)
In October 2008, Kowalski observed a fast moving asteroid headed toward Earth, and reported the discovery to Minor Planet Centre. Spahr attempted to compute its orbit, but found it on a collision course with the Nubian Desert. The impact produced a massive fireball.
Cosmic Bombs (07:36)
Physicist Mark Boslough studies the Tunguska impact of 1908 to understand Airbursts. Small asteroids break apart and sometimes explode in the atmosphere. Scientists and governments fear a collision with one of the millions of smaller stones drifting in the solar system.
Credits: Horizon: The Good The Bad And The Ugly (00:59)
Credits: Horizon: The Good The Bad And The Ugly
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