Asteroids are a constant threat to Earth.

Asteroids no match for paint gun, says professor

February 22, 2013

(—There is research that is off the wall, some off the charts and some off the planet, such as what a Texas A&M University aerospace and physics professor is exploring. It’s a plan to deflect a killer asteroid by using paint, and the science behind it is absolutely rock solid, so to speak, so much so that NASA is getting involved and wants to know much more.

Dave Hyland, professor of physics and astronomy and also a faculty member in the aerospace engineering department at Texas A&M and a researcher with more than 30 years of awards and notable grants, says one possible way to avert an asteroid collision with Earth is by using a process called “tribocharging powder dispensing” – as in high pressured – and spreading a thin layer of paint on an approaching asteroid, such as the one named DA14 that came within 17,000 miles on Feb. 15.

What happens is that the paint changes the amount by which the asteroid reflects sunlight, Hyland theorizes, producing a change in what is called the Yarkovski effect (which was discovered by a Russian engineer in 1902). The force arises because on a spinning asteroid, the dusk side is warmer than the dawn side and emits more thermal photons, each photon carrying a small momentum. The unequal heating of the asteroid results in a net force strong enough to cause the asteroid to shift from its current orbit, Hyland further theorizes.

The kind of paint used is not the kind found at your local hardware store, Hyland explains.

“It could not be a water-based or oil-based paint because it would probably explode within seconds of it entering space,” he notes.

“But a powdered form of paint could be used to dust on the asteroid and the sun would then do the rest. It cures the paint to give a smooth coating, and would change the unequal heating of the asteroid so that it would be forced off its current path and placed on either a higher or lower orbit, thus missing Earth.

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