Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

This Asteroid Shouldn't Be Where Astronomers Found It

Ancient Asteroid Suggests Gas Giants Once Roved the Solar System Like Unhinged Drunks Lonely 'exiled weirdo asteroid' found on the edge of our solar system
Doris Mccormick | 13 May, 2018, 22:08

Smaller, carbon-rich objects that typically would have populated large swarths of space closer to the Sun, were consequently booted out and flung billions of kilometres beyond the orbit of Neptune, some 30 plus astronomical units (AU) away.

Artistic depiction of the exiled asteroid 2004 EW95, the first carbon-rich asteroid confirmed to exist in the Kuiper Belt and a relic of the primordial solar system.

The first detection was made in 2004 by the Hubble Space Telescope, while further observations and the discovery that they are carbon star asteroids were made by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.

It is likely to have been formed in the very early days of our home star system, before being thrown out into the void by the gravitational pushing and pulling of the gas giant planets, which "rampaged through the Solar System, ejecting small rocky bodies".

Some scientific models already suggested that some carbonaceous asteroids could have been expelled to the Kuiper belt, but until now no one had been able to detect it reliably. The asteroid's reflectance range, (the particular example of wavelengths of light which are reflected from an object) was diverse from similar little Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs), which ordinarily have featureless spectra that uncover little data about their creation.

"It looked enough of a weirdo for us to take a closer look", Dr Tom Seccull, lead author of the study said. But these powerful instruments didn't change the fact that the asteroid, which stretches 186 miles (300 kilometers) across, is 2.5 billion miles (4 billion kilometers) away from Earth. As astronomer Thomas Puccia of the Catholic University of Chile said, "it's like watching a giant coal mountain with a dark night sky background".

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"While there have been previous reports of other "atypical" Kuiper Belt Object spectra, none were confirmed to this level of quality", said ESO astronomer Olivier Hainaut. The Kuiper Belt starts past the orbit of Neptune, roughly 30 astronomical units from sunlight, roughly 30 times the distance between sunlight and Earth, and might stretch nearly as far too interstellar space. Since objects high in carbon aren't common out in the Kuiper Belt - an icy region past Neptune - verifying their distant existence could further support the current formation theory.

"Not only is 2004 EW95 moving, it's also very faint", Seccull added.

Further analysis of the asteroid revealed that it is a carbonaceous asteroid (C-type asteroid).

These minerals suggest that the object formed under conditions similar to those that formed numerous carbonaceous asteroids closer to Earth.

The discovery shines a new light on the chaos state when our solar system was born.

ESO is the foremost inter-governmental astronomy organisation in Europe and also claims to be the world's "most productive ground-based astronomical observatory".

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