In my Why A Space Program? post from July of 2009, I explored the various justifications put forth in support of maintaining a robust and well funded space program. As my own contribution to that effort, I talked about the dangers of keeping all of humanity’s “eggs” in one basket. I even included a video simulation of an extinction level asteroid impact to the Earth. It was quite impressive – and terrifying. Well, thanks to the Asteroid Discovery From 1980 – 2010 post over at the Erotixx photoblog, I now have more powerful evidence to back up my point.
The following video is a simulation of the solar system plotting the locations of all known asteroids, starting in 1980, and updated over time as new asteroids have been discovered up to 2010. As you watch the video, newly discovered asteroids are added to the map and shown in White. The color then changes once their true orbits are calculated. From the video’s associated text:
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.
The final color of an asteroid indicates how closely it comes to the inner solar system. Earth Approachers (Perihelion less than 1.3AU) are painted Yellow, while Earth Crossers are painted Red. All others are painted Green.
Trust me, you want to watch this in Full Screen mode!
You can find much more information on the creation of this video, along with links to a lot more, in the text associated with it at YouTube – Asteroid Discovery From 1980 – 2010.
I want ice water.