How Does The Sun Affect Asteroids?


The Sun is the main source of heat and light for the entire planet. Other than causing various effects such as sunburns and, on the other hand, helping plants to thrive, the Sun also affects space objects such as asteroids. Most asteroids are thought to have been created by collisions between rocks and other bodies in the solar system.

Asteroids can be affected in various ways, moving, shaping, and keeping in one location. The Sun's large mass affects its orbit, so it moves closer to or further away from Earth over time. According to some researchers, asteroid collisions have happened billions of years to create terrestrial planets. If this is so, that means that most asteroids are far from the Sun.

Place in Space

The Sun's mass is 99.8% of the solar system's total mass. It means it exerts a significant gravitational force on other bodies in the solar system. Gravity provides a force in the direction of the object's center of mass. It includes a gravitational pull on all the objects around it, including other nearby space rocks. The Sun's gravity pulls on everything that has any mass, including big planets like Jupiter.

One way to think about this is that smaller objects can be pushed away by larger ones. In other words, an asteroid will be pushed away from anything big enough, such as Jupiter, which can be easily pulled by the Sun. The Sun's gravity, therefore, influences the place and space occupied by the asteroids.

How the Sun Pushes Asteroids with Light

Objects in the solar system appear to be in their places. However, when they are observed keenly, one can find that some asteroids have left their spaces and have come near the earth. An example is an asteroid Bennu, which tends to form groups in various regions of the solar system.

The sunlight can move asteroids. Asteroids rotate like other space objects such as the planets. Usually, when the asteroid is exposed to sunlight, the side that has been exposed absorbs light while the away side takes off energy as heat. Taking off the heat establishes a given amount of thrust, which pushes the asteroid slightly. This force is known as the “Yarkovsky Effect”; it has altered the trajectory of asteroids of less than 40 kilometers or about 25 miles in diameter over millions of years.

The Sun can also bring about the rotation of these small asteroids, an effect called, "YORP". This force was named after four scientists who discovered it. It affects asteroids in various ways depending on their shape, size and other features. Other times, YORP makes small bodies break due to the continuous spinning motion.

How the Sun Shapes the Asteroids’ Surface

Rocks in space have similar characteristics to the rocks found on earth. They both weather after a significant period. When the sunshine warms rocks like asteroids, they expand. They will contract while cooling, meaning there is a regular fluctuation in their sizes. It is what causes them to form cracks over time. This process is known as thermal fracturing. This procedure is more intense in objects like asteroids due to the lack of atmosphere and varied temperatures. The asteroids are very far from the Sun and will likely fracture because of the temperature factor.

The lack of atmosphere has another effect on asteroids. The solar wind streams particles from the asteroids when mixed with the magnetic fields in space and radiation emanating from the Sun. The earth has a magnetic field that protects itself from fast weathering.

The earth has an atmosphere which means that when the solar wind ignites moving particles, they ignite the movement of the molecules of the atmosphere; therefore, the solar wind does not affect the earth's surface. When the same happens to asteroids, their lack of atmosphere means that the particles ignited by the solar wind weather the surface of the asteroids. These particles remove some materials from the asteroids and place them into space, affecting the original size and shape of the asteroids.

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