Last week I mentioned a live map on the Antrim Observatory Website displaying near earth asteroids. Scott Malloy the creator of that app also came up with this stunning animation showing asteroid discovery since 1980.
The visualization is a time lapse film displaying asteroids and inner planets orbiting around the sun. New objects appear in waves as they get discovered – coloured according to how far they reach into the inner solar system. Red means they pass withing the orbit of the earth, earth approachers are yellow, others are green.
Towards the end of the video no less than half a million objects are in orbit, still only a tiny fraction of estimated numbers. The small-sized clip below doesn’t really do it justice, so I suggest watching in full screen and 1080p high definition if you can.
Scott provides some interesting background info on the searchlight-like pattern of these objects’ discovery:
Notice now the pattern of discovery follows the Earth around its orbit, most discoveries are made in the region directly opposite the Sun.
As the video moves into the mid 1990’s we see much higher discovery rates as automated sky scanning systems come online.
Moving into 2010:
..a new discovery pattern becomes evident, with discovery zones in a line perpendicular to the Sun-Earth vector. These new observations are the result of the WISE (Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer) which is a space mission that’s tasked with imaging the entire sky in infrared wavelengths.