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By Tia Ghose
Space rocks barreling toward Earth could potentially be discovered by detecting changes in streams of plasma and particles known as solar wind, new research suggests.
The findings could help identify smaller near-Earth objects — like the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013 — before they blast through Earth’s atmosphere, study co-author Hanying Wei, a researcher in earth, planetary and space sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), said here at the 47th annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
Smaller space rocks pose dangers because the vast majority lurk hidden in the solar system. Even if they’re heading straight for Earth, “you will never see it in a telescope,” Wei told Live Science.
A cocoon of smaller space rocks and ultrafine dust often trails the massive near-Earth objects that circle the sun. Even if the main asteroid never comes close to the planet, Earth’s gravitational pull can peel the smaller orbitals off and bring them hurtling directly toward the planet.
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