︎The Yarkovsky Effect︎CCAM Team︎The Yarkovsky Effect︎CCAM Team︎The Yarkovsky Effect︎CCAM Team︎The Yarkovsky Effect︎CCAM Team
The Yarkovsky effect, Rishab Jain, 2021.
The Yarkovsky Effect
Back in October 2019, CCAM artist-in-residence Damian Loeb gave a presentation in the Leeds Studio about his new work, My First Algorithm. During the celebratory dinner that followed, conversation turned to the subject of asteroids. Apparently, Asteroid 2018VP1 was due to skim alarmingly close to Earth on November 2, 2020, right before the Presidential Election. CCAM director Dana Karwas mused aloud how artists might re-orient such a forceful mass, and asked Loeb how he would do it, if he had the time and resources. “Well,” he replied, “I would paint one side of it white.”
While NASA eventually told everyone not to worry, Loeb’s comment popped into our minds as Karwas and I were planning this issue. When we reached out to him about it, he explained that he had come across the idea during his research, that physicists and aerospace engineers have been working on it for some time. During the day, sunlight warms the rotating asteroid as it shoots around its orbit, while at night, the surface cools it down. This push-pull causes a radiation—known as the Yarkovsky effect—that can steer it slightly off track. Spraying one side with white paint would increase the heat photons and nudge it further away, enough to divert it sufficiently from causing harm.
I decided that Maquette needed a rendering of this paint-sprayed asteroid. Karwas called on Rishab Jain, CCAM research fellow and the teaching assistant in her Yale Architecture course, “The Mechanical Artifact: Ultra Space” which she developed with Ariel Ekblaw, the founder and director of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative. Jain is a design futurist and works at the intersection of architecture, technology, and built environments.
To create this work, Jain first considered scale: “Most renditions usually depict a large satellite coming and spraying white paint onto the asteroid, which isn't a realistic solution,” he says. “My image shows an army of smaller autonomous bots flying within orbit and each spraying white lines.” These bots would start off attached to a large rocket payload that launches from Earth, then deployed nearer to the target.
The second consideration was time: A group of smaller bots are needed instead of one, he explains, because of the time crunch. “There is going to be a specific range when the asteroid is close enough to the Earth’s orbit in order to do this.” The bots would catch and spray the asteroid on a few circuits before finally crashing into it, and disintegrating—clearing up the issue of space debris, a problem that has been accumulating.
Finally: Re-orienting asteroids needs to happen approximately twenty to thirty years ahead. This image, therefore, is set in the year 2050.