Video shows asteroid discoveries since 1980

08 Sep

Just in case I wasn't already in awe of the scientific progress made during my own lifetime, Lauren Submitterated (it's a verb now) this video showing the mind-blowing numbers of asteroids that have been discovered since 1980. Created by Scott Manley—and with some very lovely music, I might add—the video shows new discoveries in white, then changes their color to reflect position in relation to the inner solar system. Earth crossers are red. Earth approachers are yellow. All others are green.

Manley's included a lot of good information about what the patterns of where and when new asteroids appear in the video tell us about astronomy over over the last 30 years.

Notice now the pattern of discovery follows the Earth around its orbit, most discoveries are made in the region directly opposite the Sun. You'll also notice some clusters of discoveries on the line between Earth and Jupiter, these are the result of surveys looking for Jovian moons. Similar clusters of discoveries can be tied to the other outer planets, but those are not visible in this video.

As the video moves into the mid 1990's we see much higher discovery rates as automated sky scanning systems come online. Most of the surveys are imaging the sky directly opposite the sun and you'll see a region of high discovery rates aligned in this manner.

At the beginning of 2010 a new discovery pattern becomes evident, with discovery zones in a line perpendicular to the Sun-Earth vector. These new observations are the result of the WISE (Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer) which is a space mission that's tasked with imaging the entire sky in infrared wavelengths.


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