Asteroids no match for paint gun, says professor

Feb 22, 2013
Asteroids are a constant threat to Earth.

(Phys.org)—There is research that is off the wall, some off the charts and some off the planet, such as what a Texas A&M University aerospace and physics professor is exploring. It's a plan to deflect a killer asteroid by using paint, and the science behind it is absolutely rock solid, so to speak, so much so that NASA is getting involved and wants to know much more.

Dave Hyland, professor of physics and astronomy and also a faculty member in the aerospace engineering department at Texas A&M and a researcher with more than 30 years of awards and notable grants, says one possible way to avert an asteroid collision with Earth is by using a process called "tribocharging powder dispensing" – as in high pressured – and spreading a thin layer of paint on an approaching asteroid, such as the one named DA14 that came within 17,000 miles on Feb. 15.

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What happens is that the paint changes the amount by which the asteroid reflects sunlight, Hyland theorizes, producing a change in what is called the Yarkovski effect (which was discovered by a Russian engineer in 1902). The force arises because on a spinning asteroid, the dusk side is warmer than the dawn side and emits more thermal photons, each photon carrying a small momentum. The unequal heating of the asteroid results in a net force strong enough to cause the asteroid to shift from its current orbit, Hyland further theorizes.

The kind of paint used is not the kind found at your local hardware store, Hyland explains.

"It could not be a water-based or oil-based paint because it would probably explode within seconds of it entering space," he notes.

"But a powdered form of paint could be used to dust on the asteroid and the sun would then do the rest. It cures the paint to give a smooth coating, and would change the unequal heating of the asteroid so that it would be forced off its current path and placed on either a higher or lower orbit, thus missing Earth.

"I have to admit the concept does sound strange, but the odds are very high that such a plan would be successful and would be relatively inexpensive. The science behind the theory is sound. We need to test it in space."

As for getting the paint on the asteroid, a practical way to do this was discovered by a former student of Hyland's, Shen Ge, who has since started a new space company. The "tribocharging powder dispenser" would spray a mixture of inert gas and charged dry-paint powder at the asteroid that would attract the powder to its surface through electrostatics. Then solar wind and UV radiation would cure the powder, giving a smooth, thin coat on the surface.

Getting the in the asteroid's path in a timely manner will certainly be a challenge, Hyland observes.

"The tribocharged powder process is a widely used method of painting many products," he says. "It remains only to adapt the technology to space conditions."

NASA has approached Hyland for developing such a project to test the theory, and the Earth may need it quickly. An asteroid called Apophis is due in 2029 and will come closer than many communications satellites in orbit right now. It will fly by on April 13 (Friday the 13 to be exact)  of 2029 and make a return trip in 2036, and it's estimated to be more than 1,000 feet in length and is appropriately named for an evil Egyptian god of chaos and destruction. There is no chance of its hitting Earth in 2029, but a small chance in the next close approach in 2036, Hyland notes.

Asteroids have hit Earth before. One hit off the Yucatan coast of Mexico about 65 million years ago and is believed to have caused the eventual extinction of the dinosaurs. And in 1908, the fabled "Tunguska event" occurred in Siberia in which an or meteor exploded several miles above the Earth, flattening trees and killing livestock over 800 square miles. The explosion is now estimated to have been 1,000 times more powerful than the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

"There are thousands of asteroids out there, and only a small percentage of them are known and can be tracked as they approach Earth," Hyland adds.

"The smaller ones, like DA14 are not discovered as soon as others, and they could still cause a lot of damage should they hit Earth.  It is really important for our long-term survival that we concentrate much more effort discovering and tracking them, and developing as many useful technologies as possible for deflecting them."

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User comments : 37

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CreepyD
not rated yet Feb 22, 2013
Sounds like a good plan if you're absolutely sure it's going to hit and need to change it. Trouble is it seems that we are never totally sure until it's likely too late for long term methods such as this.
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2013
Sounds like a good plan if you're absolutely sure it's going to hit and need to change it. Trouble is it seems that we are never totally sure until it's likely too late for long term methods such as this.


Well you could establish a protocol that if the predicted path clips the earth with a higher than some probability, then we'll paint the asteroid to shift it away.

BSD
1.4 / 5 (5) Feb 22, 2013
The only problem is, how will they model the behaviour of the asteroid after the paint has been applied? That said, it seems more practical than attempting a nuclear detonation to change it's trajectory.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (9) Feb 22, 2013
I think the best way to deflect a rock is to hit it with another rock. Was this the intended Purpose of the russian meteor?
http://www.wired....ame-day/

US/USSR technologies have long existed which could rendezvous with, and redirect, space rocks the size of that meteor out past the orbit of mars, and perhaps use them for Constructive Purposes.

16 russian probes to mars, all 'lost'. How many more sent from secret asian bases that we know nothing of?
dschlink
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 22, 2013
Deflecting a 300-meter long rock would be beyond the capability of any current nuclear bomb. Also, it would almost certainly create large fragments that would hit.
ValeriaT
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 22, 2013
In addition, we could pay the whole project with painting the sponsor logos on the asteroid.
baudrunner
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 22, 2013
This is not new. The Crookes radiometer uses the same principle. A black surface absorbs photons and moves away from a light source, so, in theory, this effect can be used to steer asteroids away from a collision.
cantdrive85
1.5 / 5 (17) Feb 22, 2013
The "tribocharging powder dispenser" would spray a mixture of inert gas and charged dry-paint powder at the asteroid that would attract the powder to its surface through electrostatics.

They had better know what the resonant charge of the asteroid is so they can be sure that the paint will react.
BTW, due to the electromagnetic properties of the charged bolide and the Earth, the chance of an impact are nil. The explosive event that occurred in Russia (Tunguska as well) is exactly how a meteorite will behave almost every time. If a bolide with a charge differential large enough may cause a surface arc to occur between the two bodies, it is this surface arc that creates "impact' craters, not an actual impact.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2013
IMO the Tunguska bolide created a crater, which is forming Cheko lake by now. If it would be formed mostly with ice like the comets, it may not even leave very large persistent remnants.
cantdrive85
1.9 / 5 (13) Feb 22, 2013
IMO the Tunguska bolide created a crater, which is forming Cheko lake by now. If it would be formed mostly with ice like the comets, it may not even leave very large persistent remnants.

Not quite sure why this erroneous belief that comets are mostly ice. All observational data points to comets being nothing more than asteroids with highly elliptical orbits.
Q-Star
3.2 / 5 (11) Feb 22, 2013
Not quite sure why this erroneous belief that comets are mostly ice. All observational data points to comets being nothing more than asteroids with highly elliptical orbits.


"All observational data"? There ya go making up stuff out of thin air (or thin plasma if ya prefer) again. So "all observational data" acquired by spectroscopy (thermodynamics with some electromagnetics & chemistry thrown in) are nonexistent?

What "all observational data" shows a lack of ice and composition more in line with an asteroid? "All observational data",,, sounds very scientific and erudite, but it is 100% wrong in this case.

It's obvious you are still looking for your very first book on astrophysics and astronomy. You'll never be sure they are wrong until you at least read one.

How is the search for a commonly used astrophysics text which completely ignores plasma and electromagnetics coming?
LariAnn
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2013
The problem I foresee is that if the asteroid is traveling at high speed, we wouldn't be able to get close enough to it to paint it before it would be heck and gone from the neighborhood. We'd need a much faster propulsion device to get the paint craft close enough and long enough to complete the job.
cantdrive85
1.9 / 5 (14) Feb 22, 2013
You obviously have chosen to ignore close up images NASA has produced of comets. There is no discernible difference in the visual morphology between comets and asteroids. But ignoring facts has never been a problem for Q.
Q-Star
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 22, 2013
You obviously have chosen to ignore close up images NASA has produced of comets. There is no discernible difference in the visual morphology between comets and asteroids. But ignoring facts has never been a problem for Q.


So you have the amazing ability to look at a photograph and determine the chemical composition of the object? Wow, I bet you are in very high demand. You are the very first person I have ever heard claim to be able to do that (well there have been a psychic or two).

Tell how that works?
Q-Star
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 22, 2013
You obviously have chosen to ignore close up images NASA has produced of comets. There is no discernible difference in the visual morphology between comets and asteroids. But ignoring facts has never been a problem for Q.


Pssst, cantdrive, visual inspection of photographs has never been used to determine the composition of any astronomical body, not even the one most easily seen, the Moon. You should think before you post, it will save you some embarrassment.
cantdrive85
1.9 / 5 (14) Feb 22, 2013
So, the saying goes... If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

I made no claims as to the chemical comp of the bodies. I was referring to the visual morphology. However, if we could bring up the objects 2060 Chiron and 60558 Echeclus, both of which are listed as comets and asteroids. These two centaurs, due to their orbits, can gain a voltage difference with their environs and the cometary displays will be the result. As the evidence supports, the only difference between the two is the voltage difference they have with their location within the Sun's EM field.
Q-Star
3 / 5 (10) Feb 22, 2013
I made no claims as to the chemical comp of the bodies. I was referring to the visual morphology. However, if we could bring up the objects 2060 Chiron and 60558 Echeclus, both of which are listed as comets and asteroids. These two centaurs, due to their orbits, can gain a voltage difference with their environs and the cometary displays will be the result. As the evidence supports, the only difference between the two is the voltage difference they have with their location within the Sun's EM field.


Son, you really need to get out more. You are assuming that what those guys at PC are telling about what the mainstream guys say and think is actually what the mainstream guys say and think. That's how ya got sucked in to begin with.

Read some actual mainstream science, THEN pick and fault. Until ya do, you're not only get your own stuff wrong, you're going to get what you think they think wrong.

cantdrive85
2.2 / 5 (13) Feb 22, 2013
Mainstream scientists list those two objects as both asteroids as well as comets, the EUT guys don't have anything to do with labeling these objects.
Asteroid designation- 2060 Chiron, 60558 Echeclus
Cometary designation- 95P/Chiron, 174P/Echeclus

Two designations, one object. Weird!
thermodynamics
4.5 / 5 (8) Feb 22, 2013
Cantdrive85: I know this is probably lost to your inability to think, but you said: "There is no discernible difference in the visual morphology between comets and asteroids." and I have to respond to this.

When an asteroid is kicked into an orbit that takes it near the sun it does not outgas like a comet does. In fact, the "coma" is how comets were named. The outgasing from a comet is measurable and is shown to include water vapor (among many other molecules). Your comment that there is no "discernible difference" is incredibly uninformed. I expect better analysis (and a higher IQ) from a bag of hammers than your attempts at analyses. Did you even get a degree in anything?
cantdrive85
2.2 / 5 (10) Feb 22, 2013
And yet, here I have point to two among many examples of an asteroid having a cometary display.
cantdrive85
2.4 / 5 (11) Feb 22, 2013
Q-Star
3.2 / 5 (11) Feb 22, 2013
Asteroid designation- 2060 Chiron, 60558 Echeclus
Cometary designation- 95P/Chiron, 174P/Echeclus

Two designations, one object. Weird!


There are many weird things to see. Out of all the myriad astronomical objects out, don't ya thing that there may be some diversity?

Everything does not fit into a small number of simple distinct categories. Only a simple mind which can't fathom the diversity "the observations" show would expect that everything fit into a picture as perfectly as jig-saw puzzle.

That is why your so-called Plasma Cosmology falls flat on it's face. It doesn't account for all the observed phenomena. That is why it is NOT a THEORY or a MODEL. It does what you falsely accuse the astrophysicists of doing. Ignoring and neglecting. It ignores chemistry, thermodynamics, gravity, particle physics, quantum physics, etc, etc. EVERYTHING IS PLASMA IGNORE EVERYTHING ELSE,

That's the proof that YOU don't understand what you rail against. You demand exact answers.

Q-Star
2.8 / 5 (9) Feb 22, 2013
more...
http://phys.org/n...ail.html


More what? Phenomena? A comet is not defined by a tail. An asteroid is not defined by not having a tail. You present a false argument.

Let me know when you find that astrophysics text that has no plasma and electromagnets in it.

While you're at it,,, could you point me to a source where I might peruse a means of calculating some orbital mechanics without using Newton or Einstein? Surely there is some means of modeling the behavior of bodies using only "Plasma Physics"?

Ooh, and if it wouldn't be to much trouble, would you also show how to model the Sun without relying on those over rated things called thermodynamics, Einstein's fallacies and nuclear physics?

What is the formula you use to calculate the obits of Jupiter's moons? (Newton & Einstein buggered that thing badly.)

Show me that maths please, I promise to give them an honest trial.
Silverhill
5 / 5 (4) Feb 22, 2013
@cantdrive85
The explosive event that occurred in Russia (Tunguska as well) is exactly how a meteorite will behave almost every time.
Actually, most meteorites behave by making holes in the ground, if they're large enough. Smaller ones would bounce on the ground, and the really small ones fall as dust.

If a bolide with a charge differential large enough may cause a surface arc to occur between the two bodies, it is this surface arc that creates "impact" craters, not an actual impact.
So, after this titanic arc event, what then happens to the impactor?

I made no claims as to the chemical comp of the bodies. I was referring to the visual morphology.
Which, as you should have seen by now, is nearly irrelevant.
Jeddy_Mctedder
1.9 / 5 (9) Feb 22, 2013
we have never so much as landed a robot on an asteroid to actually explore one directly and in intricate detail and we think our plans to stop one of them are even worth mentioning.

http://transhuman...enterpri
Moebius
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 23, 2013
Good idea, it will work if it works. But applying paint to the near weightless electrostatic powder that covers asteroids in a vacuum could be problematic.
Q-Star
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 23, 2013
Good idea, it will work if it works. But applying paint to the near weightless electrostatic powder that covers asteroids in a vacuum could be problematic.


I think that the near perfect vacuum would make it less problematic to apply an electrostatic powder. After all, it's the electrostatic stickiness that formed the asteroids in the first place. All you have to do is disperse the inert gas/paint material in the asteroid's path and let nature take it's course.
Sanescience
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 23, 2013
I didn't think this was new, changing the albedo. I also was of the impression that brighter albedo prevents the absorption of heat which then prevents the emittance of the secondary photons from the "back side" of the asteroid netting more force exerted from the sun side.

I can also see designing a paint that is unstable when exposed to ultraviolet giving off "volatiles" only on the exposed side of the asteroid enhancing the effect.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 23, 2013
The idea is good - with a couple of caveats:
1) Detection must be VERY early. To alter the path of an asteroid this way takes significat time (decades)
2) The larger the rock the less well it works. While your potentially painted surface/force of deflection goes with the radius squared the momentum of the asteroid goes with the radius cubed.

What color paint you want to use depends on the initial albedo of the asteroid. You'd want to change the albedo as much as possible (light asteroids should be painted dark and vice versa)

It seems like a method we could and should) try out in the near future on a non-thretening asteroid. Just to get some initial data.
Q-Star
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 23, 2013
It seems like a method we could and should) try out in the near future on a non-thretening asteroid. Just to get some initial data.


Right ya are. I think the early detection aspect is it's greatest obstacle, as ya say, it takes time to change an orbital with this small of a force.

If it's practical, it sounds cheaper and simpler than other methods I've heard bandies about. If it turns out to be impractical, then we'll still benefit from the engineering experience. Good science to be gained either way.

Am I right in thinking this sounds much less expensive than the "ray gun" thing of a couple days ago? Nuclear bombs was a nonstarter to begin with. Attaching something to drive it away also sounds very expensive.
Silverhill
5 / 5 (1) Feb 23, 2013
@Jeddy Mctedder
we have never so much as landed a robot on an asteroid to actually explore one directly and in intricate detail and we think our plans to stop one of them are even worth mentioning.
As a rough analogy, you don't need to know the intricacies of the construction of a baseball before you swing a bat at it....
k_m
1 / 5 (5) Feb 24, 2013
Did you really just suggest that an inert 'paint' will respond to electro-static forces?

Good idea, it will work if it works. But applying paint to the near weightless electrostatic powder that covers asteroids in a vacuum could be problematic.


I think that the near perfect vacuum would make it less problematic to apply an electrostatic powder. After all, it's the electrostatic stickiness that formed the asteroids in the first place. All you have to do is disperse the inert gas/paint material in the asteroid's path and let nature take it's course.


Yep, you did. So you'd have to know the composition of the 'body' in order to formulate an inert paint that would react with the 'body' and coat its surface.

Submit the request and you'll probably get a grant for it.
Q-Star
2.7 / 5 (7) Feb 24, 2013
Yep, you did. So you'd have to know the composition of the 'body' in order to formulate an inert paint that would react with the 'body' and coat its surface.


I believe the article used inert gas combined with the paint. I believe I did too. In a cold enough environment, particles easily stick together with an electrostatic charge. Bet ya didn't know that, eh? Do ya even know what an electrostatic charge is?

Submit the request and you'll probably get a grant for it.


The subjects of the article already have, and got their grant. So thanks but your suggestion was a good one, except it shows (along with your inert error) shows that ya didn't read the article. (And that ya don't understand what electrostatic charges entail.)
Q-Star
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 24, 2013
Did you really just suggest that an inert 'paint' will respond to electro-static forces?


No, I suggested,,,,,

inert gas/paint material


Hmmm, inert gas/paint material.

So you'd have to know the composition of the 'body' in order to formulate an inert paint that would react with the 'body' and coat its surface.


No, all you would need to do is, what the subjects of this article suggested. In case ya missed it again,,,,

The "tribocharging powder dispenser" would spray a mixture of inert gas and charged dry-paint powder at the asteroid
]

Where do you see inert paint in that?

Submit the request and you'll probably get a grant for it.


Someone beat me to it.
Tausch
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 24, 2013
If paint proves to be too much effort, try casting a shadow or permanent eclipse.

Yes, of course. (In the shape of sponsor's logos.)
philw1776
1 / 5 (2) Feb 24, 2013
One problem with asteroid vs comet designations is that they are a spectrum of objects. A comet formerly full of gas and ice that has entered the "warm" inner solar system several times will eventually lose its volatiles with only the rocky parts left. Some asteroids may have never had volatiles having formed inside the ice line. What is/is not a planet also has different definition problems, at least with the IAU. These objects are not definitively different entities like say a proton vs an electron.
javjav
not rated yet Feb 24, 2013
This would need too much years of anticipation. For faster reaction, it would be good to capture a nearby asteroid as a last line of defense. Good candidates exist, although it would take time to manage it, but once we have it in a very elliptical orbit and we convert enough of its water into fuel then it would be relatively fast to modify its orbit in order to interpose it on an impact course. Like a cosmic billiard.