Asteroid the Size of a Small Planet in Our Solar System

Scientists studying a part of the meteorite have found evidence that it comes from an previously unknown asteroid that may be as large as the dwarf planet Ceres. In 2008 the meteorite, Almhata Sita (AhS), fell to Earth and researchers studied its composition to learn about the asteroid from which it came.

A meteorite is the name of a piece of debris that falls on the Earth, and it specifically comes from an asteroid, a small object that orbits the Sun. Asteroids are usually much smaller than planets and have the most clusters in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. Within this asteroid belt, the largest known object is a dwarf planet called Ceres.

Now, new evidence suggests that another asteroid as large as it can exist elsewhere in the solar system.

SwRI scientists studied the composition of a small part of a meteorite to determine that it originated from an asteroid of a previously unknown parent. This false-color micrograph of a meteorite sample shows unexpected amphibian crystals identified in orange.
SwRI scientists studied the composition of a small part of a meteorite to determine that it originated from an asteroid of a previously unknown parent. This false-color micrograph of a meteorite sample shows unexpected amphibian crystals identified in orange. Courtesy NASA / USRA / Lunar & Planetary Institute

Researchers at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) observed a small sample of meteorite ahs, suggesting that it came from the body. The first author of the paper, Drs. “We were allocated a 50-mg sample of Ahis for the study,” Vicky Hamilton said in a statement. “We mounted and polished the small shark and used an infrared microscope to examine its structure. Spectral analysis specifically identified a range of hydrated minerals in amphibians, pointing to intermediate temperatures and pressures and a long period of aqueous changes on a parent asteroid and at least 400, and 1,100 in diameter. It is up to miles. “

This means that the asteroid that the sample came from must have been large and was formed in the presence of water. It is rare to find mineral amphibians in such meteorites, called carbonaceous chondrite (CC) meteorites, which make the spawning an unusual specimen and which is particularly useful for learning about the early solar system.

We can learn more about the early solar system by studying the recently observed asteroids, Raigu and Benu. Ryugu was visited by Hayabusa 2, Japan, who recently returned a sample to Earth, and Benue is visited by NASA’s OSIRIS-REX, which should return a sample in 2023.

These specimens, which are collected directly from asteroids, may differ like those that have fallen on Earth and have been affected by their travel through the atmosphere.

“If we have different compositions of the Hayabusa 2 and OSIRIS-REX samples in the collection of meteorites, this may mean that due to their physical properties they will survive the processes of ejection, transit, and penetration into the Earth’s atmosphere. May fail, at least in its original geologic context, Hamilton said. “However, we think that the solar system has more carbonized chondrite materials, represented by our collection of meteorites.”

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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