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The CSA answers your questions about asteroids


Uploaded on December 14, 2018


The CSA answers your questions about asteroids

2018-12-14 - Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Jenni Sidey-Gibbons and CSA senior mission scientist Tim Haltigin answer some of the Internet's most-asked questions about asteroids. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)


Tim Haltigin: It’s happening.

Jenni Sidey: It’s happening.

Jenni Sidey: Where do you want us to look?

Tim Haltigin: I’ve been working my whole life for this, yes.

Jenni Sidey: Hi. I'm Jenni.

Tim Haltigin: And I'm Tim.

Jenni Sidey: And we're here to answer some of the Internet’s most asked questions about asteroids.

Tim Haltigin: Asteroids: Rocks flying through space and orbiting the Sun. I mean, how can you not get excited about these, right?

Jenni Sidey: It is pretty exciting.

Tim Haltigin: They're pretty awesome!

Jenni Sidey: And we have travelled over two billion kilometres in space, to asteroid Bennu, just to get a piece of it and bring it back to Earth.

Tim Haltigin: With the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which got to asteroid Bennu and is measuring it to try to understand where we're going to get a sample from and how we can bring it back to Earth.

Jenni Sidey: Pretty cool.

Tim Haltigin: It's awesome.

Jenni Sidey: So, let's get started.

Tim Haltigin: Okay. Go.

Jenni Sidey: Okay, first question: Can we see asteroids with the naked eye? Hm. Good question. Well, we can, but not all of them. The asteroids that we see with the naked eye have to be close enough to Earth. They have to be big enough to see. And they have to be reflecting enough light from the Sun so that we can actually see them.

Tim Haltigin: Yes.

Jenni Sidey: Good question.

Tim Haltigin: How do asteroids move through space? Well, when they were formed at the beginning of the solar system, they got a little push and really haven’t stopped since. They can accelerate sometimes if they fly close to a planet, but they’ve just been moving the entire time.

Jenni Sidey: They've just been going.

Tim Haltigin: Just going.

Jenni Sidey: Just going. Hey, next question: Where are asteroids found? Well, most asteroids in our solar system are found in the main asteroid belt, which is between Mars and Jupiter.

Tim Haltigin: It's out there. It's far.

Jenni Sidey: It's out there.

Jenni Sidey: Ways away.

Tim Haltigin: Yes.

Tim Haltigin: Why, Jenni, why is studying asteroids so important?

Jenni Sidey: Why?

Tim Haltigin: Well, asteroids tell us about the history of the solar system. If you can go back and get a piece of an asteroid, essentially what you’ve done is gone back in time by four and a half billion years to understand what the early solar system was made of, and really because they’re the leftover bits that went into forming planets. It helps us learn how planets were made in the first place.

Jenni Sidey: Wow.

Tim Haltigin: Yes.

Jenni Sidey: Okay, next question: What is the difference between a comet, an asteroid and a meteor? Hm. Good question. Okay, a comet?

Tim Haltigin: Dusty snowballs.

Jenni Sidey: Yes, big chunks of rock, ice and dust, and they usually have a tail, right?

Tim Haltigin: They usually have a tail behind them, yes.

Jenni Sidey: They usually have a tail. Asteroids: Rock.

Tim Haltigin: Metallic or non-metallic.

Jenni Sidey: No tail.

Tim Haltigin: No.

Jenni Sidey: And no water.

Tim Haltigin: No.

Jenni Sidey: No.

Tim Haltigin: No water, no.

Jenni Sidey: No water. A meteor is a chunk of an asteroid which has entered Earth's atmosphere, and a meteorite?

Tim Haltigin: Is if it hits the Earth's surface and you can go pick it up.

Jenni Sidey: Right, good question.

Tim Haltigin: How do scientists study asteroids? Well, one of the ways we do it are with spaceships, like OSIRIS-REx, that have flown over two billion kilometres to asteroid Bennu. There are instruments on the spacecraft that can take pictures of it, to know what it looks like, to measure what it's made of, and with a Canadian instrument called OLA, to measure really, really accurately what the shape is, so that we can figure out where to grab a sample, to bring it home.

Jenni Sidey: Cool. Wow!

Tim Haltigin: Yes. It's going to be incredible.

Jenni Sidey: No kidding.

Tim Haltigin: Hm, hm. It's science.

Jenni Sidey: When were asteroids formed? Hm. Well, asteroids were formed when our solar system was formed, so what, four and a half billion years ago, and they're really like these… these time capsules in space that show us what the composition of our solar system was way back then.

Tim Haltigin: Jenni, is there water on asteroids?

Jenni Sidey: No.

Tim Haltigin: None.

Jenni Sidey: No, no water on asteroids. Maybe there's some water trapped in the rocks but not water as we know it, you know.

Tim Haltigin: No.

Jenni Sidey: We can't swim.

Tim Haltigin: No swimming.

Jenni Sidey: (laughter)

Tim Haltigin: (laughter) -- I think you can take the next one.

Jenni Sidey: (laughter) -- Tim --

Tim Haltigin: Yes?

Jenni Sidey: Do asteroids have gravity?

Tim Haltigin: Yes.

Jenni Sidey: They do?

Tim Haltigin: Yes, they do.

Jenni Sidey: Of course they do?

Tim Haltigin: Anything that has mass has gravity.

Jenni Sidey: (laughter)

Tim Haltigin: The problem is that asteroids are usually pretty small, so the gravity isn't really that strong.

Jenni Sidey: Hm, hm?

Tim Haltigin: Yes, not strong.

Jenni Sidey: Not strong?

Tim Haltigin: At all. Now, is there life on asteroids? Well, no.

Jenni Sidey: (laughter) -- No?

Tim Haltigin: No, no. Asteroids are awful, awful places. There's no atmosphere. There's no water. The radiation is terrible. And so there is nothing living on asteroids.

Jenni Sidey: No, bad places to go.

Tim Haltigin: Don't go there.

Jenni Sidey: No.

Tim Haltigin: No, poor choice.

Jenni Sidey: Okay.

Tim Haltigin: Okay.

Jenni Sidey: Well --

Tim Haltigin: We’re done with questions.

Voice: CUT

Jenni Sidey: Oh?

Tim Haltigin: I'm taking --

Jenni Sidey: I guess that's it.

Tim Haltigin: All right. We're done.

Jenni Sidey: See you, Tim.

Tim Haltigin: Cool.


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