Science

Asteroid Rebuttal Says NASA Data Are Incorrect

By Aunindita Bhatia , May 28, 2016 06:40 AM EDT
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NASA dismisses the claims of ex-Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, Nathan Myhrvold, that the former's model to calculate the sizes of asteroids is terribly flawed.

As per Cornell University Library post, Myhrvold had voiced his criticism through a research paper that he recently submitted to the journal Icarus, in which he claimed to have found certain parameters lacking in the method devised by NASA to estimate asteroid sizes.

In 2009, NASA had initiated the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission, which aimed to capture images, observe and analyze objects in the solar system. In late 2010, another phase of the mission called NEOWISE was started, which used the data collected by the WISE to calculate the sizes of 158,000 asteroids.

Myhrvold, who is the founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures in Washington, said that the NASA model fails to take into account Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation, which states that shinier surfaces emit less heat, or the difference in calculation when estimating the size of a large object with reference to a much smaller object. He insists that this causes NASA's results to be off the mark by more than 100 percent.

NASA, in a statement released online two days ago, insists that its errors only come to about 15 percent, which is inevitable in a calculation of this nature where all the variables are not yet known. It also points out that its findings have been independently corroborated by two other infrared telescopes, AKARI and IRAS, as reported by Space.com.

Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, insists that Myhrvold's study has many errors that have been pointed out by them. She further draws attention to the fact that Myhrvold's paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, a process where independent experts scrutinize another's work, which in itself affects the credibility of his claims. She also points out that NASA's calculations have the validation of peer review behind it. 

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