How sunlight pushes asteroids

What makes the difference between a near-miss asteroid and a potential hit? Scientists think it might be related to a force called the Yarkovsky effect.

Rotating asteroids have a tough time sticking to their orbits. Their surfaces heat up during the day and cool down at night, giving off radiation that can act as mini-thruster.

This force, called the Yarkovsky effect, can cause rotating asteroids to drift widely over time, making it hard for scientists to predict their long-term risk to Earth.

Read more about the Yarkovsky effect

Eleanor Imster