Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Chemist Seeks To Make Outer Space Events Easy To Predict

File Photo: Asteroid Toutatis enhanced radar image. NASA/JPL
Morgantown - Aug 02, 2002
A West Virginia University chemist and five other researchers have taken a quantum leap in predicting the orbits of celestial bodies, research that could one day help scientists accurately foretell if an asteroid or comet is headed for Earth.

Charles Jaffe, associate professor of chemistry at WVU, is part of a team that combined a near 70-year-old chemical transition state theory and celestial mechanics to predict the outcome of a simulation involving Martian asteroids.

"We wanted to test the application of transition state theory to celestial mechanics by comparing our results with those of a simulation," Dr. Jaffe said. "We chose as our simulation the escape of asteroids from Mars because of our interest in the Martian meteor found in Antarctica a few years ago."

The research team's paper, "Statistical Theory of Asteroid Escape Rates," made the cover of the July 2 issue of Physical Review Letters. The paper is also featured on the Physical Review Focus Web site

Co-authors were David Farrelly, a chemist at Utah State University; T. Uzer, an atomic physicist at Georgia Institute of Technology; Jerrold Marsden, a mathematician at California Institute of Technology, and Shane D. Ross, his student; and Martin W. Lo, a software developer with Cal Tech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Transition state theory, developed by chemists in the 1930s, establishes a brief stage in chemical reactions between reactant and product, said Jaffe, who has helped refine the theory for modern uses. Bottlenecks between orbits of celestial bodies resemble transition states in chemistry, he added.

For their research, Jaffe and his fellow scientists developed a computer-based simulation of asteroids orbiting Mars, then used the transition state theory to predict how many asteroids would remain in the red planet's orbit and how many would escape.

The team then calculated the survival and escape rates by performing the simulation 107,000 times to represent the asteroids' trajectories. There was a 1 percent difference between the simulation's results and the theory's predictions.

"This means the theory works and you don't need to run the simulations, which take several days," said Jaffe, who came to WVU in 1984 after obtaining his doctorate from the University of Colorado and doing postdoctoral work at the University of Toronto and Columbia University.

Extending transition state theory to celestial mechanics could one day help scientists better predict such outer space events as asteroids and comets headed for Earth and solar storms capable of disrupting satellite communications, Jaffe said.

Astronomers announced recently that they are monitoring a recently discovered asteroid that has a minimal chance of striking the Earth in 2019. Last month, scientists discovered an asteroid that narrowly missed the planet -- after it passed by.

Using transition theory, Jaffe explained, scientists could determine which group of asteroids is more likely to come close to Earth.

"What this will do is help us decide which space matter is worth worrying about," he said. "There is not enough time to look at each asteroid. Using transition state theory, instead of looking at individual things, one can look at classes of things."

The research is supported by the National Science Foundation, American Chemical Society, West Virginia NASA Space Grant Program and NASA-ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship.

Related Links
Asteroids Lost in Space
Department of Chemistry at WVU
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Beware Of Buses From Deep Space
Sydney - Jul 31, 2002
There was a flurry of interest by TV news studios and newspapers last week when it was realised there was a slight risk that a space rock, designated 2002 NT7, some two kilometres across might hit the Earth in 2019. As expected, by the end of the week additional observations had pinned down the orbit sufficiently for astronomers to rule out any possibility of an impact in 2019.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.