This is an extraordinary animation from Scott Manley that visualizes the asteroids that were discovered year by year by astronomers between 1980 and 2011. Something on the order of half a million asteroids were discovered during that time.
To orient you, the balls spinning around the bright light in the center (the Sun) are the inner planets. You can tell which one is earth because it is the one that the light follows as it spins, that is, the the light that shows the asteroids that were being discovered at that time. Another way to orient yourself is to remember that we are on the third rock from the Sun. The year in question is shown in the lower left, and obviously we complete roughly 30 revolutions in those roughly thirty years (he did not begin and end on January 1).
Those asteroids were invariably in the area of Space closest to earth, in a rectangular region opposite to the rays of the sun. The video also shows each individual asteroid's orbit after they were discovered, but you have to have the video on high resolution to see that.
Videos such as this show how animation can synthesize enormous data sets down to something understandable. Just imagine all the research it took to identify all those asteroids, and how difficult it would be to make any sense out of them at all without seeing them portrayed graphically in this manner.
Besides the immense data collection that this video must have entailed, it also is cool in showing how astronomers are like sailers on a ship flashing their flashlights out into the void and looking for debris. Who knows what might be happening on the other side of the sun - all the astronomers can see is what it beside us at the moment. It shows the limits of earth-based telemetry.
Things changed around the end of the '90s as NASA got its act together with Hubble and various other hardware systems.
All else aside, this is a pretty video! For a science video (I know, ugh!) this is fun to watch, with a good soundtrack, even if you're not a science geek like
Of course, the asteroids are tiny and space is huge, so the way the animation colors in empty space is highly misleading. But you already knew that.
From the youtube page:
New version with data up to the end of May 2011. Rendered at more HD than HD resolution - 2048 lines - if you have gear that can play this in original format then I'm jealous. (and I have a 4096x4096 resolution version if you happen to have a planetarium and a hundred thousand dollars in projection gear)Category
Science & Technology