Will Discovery Help Repel Asteroids Headed for Earth?

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Asteroid 6489

Most asteroids in the solar system travel along an asteroid highway that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter known as the main belt.

Occasionally, an asteroid will break free of the belt and move into the inner solar system. If the asteroid comes within 121 million miles (195 million kilometers) of the sun, the asteroid is known as a near-Earth asteroid.

Compared to other near-Earth asteroids, Golevka is relatively unremarkable, measuring only half a kilometer (0.3 mile) in diameter.

Scientists believe that asteroids that collide with Earth must be larger than a kilometer (0.6 mile) in diameter to create massive climate change and greater than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) wide to cause mass extinction, Chesley said.

None of the large near-Earth asteroids astronomers are currently observing appear on track to hit Earth any time soon. Data from Golevka, however, will help make predictions more accurate.

David Vokrouhlicky, a study co-author based at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, said he can imagine cases where the discovery of the Yarkovsky Effect will help scientists "when we would try to decide whether [an] asteroid will hit the Earth or not."

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