by Anatoly MIKISHA, Cand. Sc. (Tech.), Mikhail SMIRNOV, Dr. Sc. (Phys. & Math.), RAS Institute of Astronomy
The fall on the Earth of a heavenly body, like an asteroid, big meteorite or a comet, is something that does happen now and then but, fortunately enough, not too often.
Since the dawn of mankind there has been quite a number of such events. In ancient times our forefathers usually took this as divine interference into our earthly life - a punishment likely for our sins. And no one could even dream of resisting this heavenly wrath, or protecting oneself from it.
But all that are things of the past.
And what about now?
Do we have any means and methods which can help us anticipate and prevent a catastrophe of this kind?
"FALLING STARS", "METEORITE SHOWERS", MINOR PLANETS...
Ancient legends and chronicles always described as miracles the flights of big comets and the falls of "heavenly rocks" on this planet. As for scientists, always preoccupied with facts, and not fiction, they not only watched such events, but tried to systematize them ever since the time of the Renaissance. The astronomical science over the past 200 years has proved that the space between the planets of the solar system is not some empty void, but something filled with objects of different shapes and sizes-from tiny particles to rocks measuring thousands of kilometers across. All of them are minor heavenly bodies which are subdivided into interplanetary dust, meteorites, asteroids and comets. Also identified in recent time are what we call mini-comets.
Objects of any size moving through space can approach our planet and even fall upon its surface. If such an object is small, then, as it hits the Earth's upper atmosphere it is enveloped by a layer of hot plasma and simply evaporates. The scientific name for such bodies is meteors and the common folk call them "falling stars": they suddenly flare up in the night sky, leaving a bright "tail" behind them which rapidly fades aw ... Читать далее