Study investigates potential risk of Taurid meteor swarm

Study investigates potential risk of Taurid meteor swarm
Illustration of the entire Taurid swarm. Credit: Western University

A new study from Western University posits proof to the possibility that an oncoming swarm of meteors—likened to the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot by some extraterrestrial experts—may indeed pose an existential risk for Earth and its inhabitants. (That's us.)

When considering catalysts for catastrophic collision, there are two main sources Near Earth Objects (NEOs) like asteroids and meteoroids and interlopers from the outer solar system, which are typically comets. Over the past few decades, a great deal of effort has been expended in cataloging more than 90 percent of the potentially hazardous NEOs, and work is ongoing to detect, catalog and track greater numbers and smaller sizes of these objects. Interlopers from the outer solar system are much harder to chart but again, much work is underway.

The Taurid swarm is a third potential source of risk that changes the probabilities of possible catastrophic impacts. The Tunguska (Russia) explosion of 1908 is considered a one-in-1000-year event, assuming a random distribution of events over time. But the Taurid swarm, a dense cluster within the Taurid meteoroid stream, and through which the Earth periodically passes, changes the odds significantly and gives a possible reason for the unlikely occurrence that a once per 1000-year event occurred just over a century ago. If the hypothesized might of the Taurid swarm is successfully proven, this also heightens the possibility of a cluster of large impacts over a short period of time.

Credit: Western University

For the study, published by arXiv and accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, David Clark from Western's Department of Earth Sciences, and Paul Wiegert and Peter Brown from Western's Department of Physics & Astronomy simulated a large collection of 100-meter diameter meteoroids (like the one that triggered the 1908 Tunguska event) with orbits similar to the Taurid swarm and calculated their positions forward for 1,000 years. By analyzing, each object's position and motion over time, the astronomers calculated two optimal viewing times and telescope pointing locations for the Taurid swarm to properly investigate its overall risk potential.

  • Study investigates potential risk of Taurid meteor swarm
    Illustration of the Taurid swarm core. Credit: Western University
  • Study investigates potential risk of Taurid meteor swarm
    Single illustration of Taurid swarm core passing below the Earth. Credit: Western University
  • Study investigates potential risk of Taurid meteor swarm
    Taurid Fireball Observations in 2015 - Detailed view of the two brightest Taurids far over Poland recorded by the AFO (analog camera) at station Polom. (Spurný et al. 2017 Fig 8). Credit: Western University
  • Study investigates potential risk of Taurid meteor swarm
    Historic photo of Tunguska damage (1929)

According to Western Meteor Physics Group data analysis, the Earth will approach within 30,000,000 km of the center of the Taurid swarm this summer, the closest such encounter since 1975. The calculations also show that this will be the best viewing of the Taurid swarm until the early 2030s.

"There has been great interest in the space community since we shared our results at the recent Planetary Defense Conference in Washington, DC," says David Clark, a Western graduate student and first author of the study. "There is strong meteoric and NEO evidence supporting the Taurid swarm and its potential existential risks but this summer brings a unique opportunity to observe and quantify these objects."

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More information: David L. Clark, et al. The 2019 Taurid resonant swarm: prospects for ground detection of small NEOs arXiv:1905.01260v1 [astro-ph.EP]
Citation: Study investigates potential risk of Taurid meteor swarm (2019, May 23) retrieved 23 September 2019 from
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May 24, 2019
Vulcan's B swarm of seven red comets and associated fragments are due to reach perihelion around the same time as the most remote comet (K2 PANSTARRS) ever detected, does.
2018-2019: THE B COMET SWARM:
"Impacts in the Atlantic ocean, Caribbean and Mediterranean sea are anticipated. Peak threat times are September/October 2022 or maybe 2023:

NASA will have their DART interceptor to intercept Didymos' moonlet in late September 2022, when It is within 11 million kilometers of Earth. NASA is also practicing against a comet that is similar to those generated by Vulcan:

The orbital period of the comet is several thousand years.
C/2019 PDC has an inclination of 129 degrees, making it retrograde.

Vulcan casts Kuiper Belt Objects into 3:2 resonate Sun grazing orbits (~3313 yrs), ~131.56 deg. retrograde.

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