Gaia determined the chemical composition of 60 thousand asteroids

The Gaia Space Telescope team has published a new catalog of asteroids in the Solar System. It contains information about their orbits, taking into account rotation around its axis and spectroscopic data.

Gaia Asteroid Catalog. Source: ESA

Gaia Asteroid Catalog

The Gaia Space Telescope is an astrometric instrument. This means that it does not peer at any particular object, but day after day tracks hundreds of thousands of radiation sources on the celestial sphere. Therefore, it is mainly known for its observations of distant objects, such as black holes, binary stars and galaxies. 

But this does not mean that it does not see anything in our Solar System. The latest on today’s third catalog of its data, published this summer, contains data on 10 times more asteroids than were placed in the previous one. 

In particular, the latest published data set contains information about the spectra of 60 thousand asteroids. Until now, scientists had such data only for several thousand small celestial bodies of the Solar System. But this is not the limit. Scientists hope that thanks to Gaia, this figure can grow ten times more.

Collecting spectroscopic data on so many asteroids will help determine their chemical composition. And typing statistics on the chemical composition of the bodies of the Solar system will allow us to create more accurate and complete theories of its origin and evolution.

Astrometry of space rocks

But the main task for which the Gaia telescope was created is astrometry. When it sees some kind of radiation source appear in its pictures and then disappear very quickly, it means a close passage of an asteroid. 

Based on the exact position of the “space rock” in relation to the stars and its brightness, its coordinates can be determined. On the basis of several positioning data, it is possible to calculate the orbit of an object. And then catalogs of previously discovered asteroids are connected, which allow determining whether it was known before or not.

At the same time, the Gaia team uses an advanced astrometry method. It even allows us to take into account the fact that during their orbit, asteroids can rotate around their axis, which does not pass through their geometric middle. The center of mass can be shifted, and the telescope sees it. This is how, for example, the characteristics of the asteroid Lutetia, which was previously investigated by the Rosetta spacecraft, were clarified. 

According to

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