Astronomer suggests studies into near-Earth objects in the Sun’s direction, says facilities aplenty

Sheppard noted that most space gazing was fixed at the dark night sky, when it is not overwhelmed with light from the Sun.

Astronomer suggests studies into near-Earth objects in the Sun’s direction, says facilities aplenty
Scientists, however, are not completely ignorant of near-Earth objects in the Sun's glare. (Reuters)

An astronomer has called for the space science community to pay closer attention to near-Earth objects lying in the direction of the Sun.

Scott Sheppard of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii has published a Perspective in Science, noting that the technology now existed to look for and find such near-Earth objects, at least during twilight.

Sheppard noted that most space gazing was fixed at the dark night sky, when it is not overwhelmed with light from the Sun. However, as a result, space scientists have ignored near-Earth objects that orbit between the Earth and the Sun. He forecasts that ignoring these objects could lead to trouble as one or more of these could be on a path that results in them crashing into Earth.

Scientists, however, are not completely ignorant of near-Earth objects in the Sun’s glare.

Sheppard said in his report that many of these near-Earth objects were recently discovered. But he added that more such studies were needed to learn more about them. He also noted that new facilities, such as the Zwicky Transient Facility in the US and the NSF Blanco-4-meter in Chile, had the capability to study such objects. The Chilean observatory even has a Dark Energy Camera that can be pointed closer to the sun.

Near-Earth objects that orbit the Sun inside tge Earth’s orbit are categorised on the basis of their orbital positioning — for example, if they travel inside Venus’s orbit, they are called Vatiras.

Sheppard also noted in his essay that the numbers of these objects remain relatively constant, which is surprising development. Based on computer models and the number of Near-Earth objects that strike the Earth, the moon, and other celestial bodies, their numbers should drop. That they are not suggests some form of replenishment. Sheppard thinks there should be efforts made to find out where those other objects were coming from.

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