Sci-tech

Asteroid was found at the edges of the solar system

Asteroid was found at the edges of the solar system

"The reflectance spectrum of 2004 EW95 was clearly distinct from the other observed outer Solar System objects".

This rocky witness of our solar system's primordial days offers unique evidence of that distant period.

Our solar system was a very busy and chaotic place in its early days.

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. A team of astronomers led by Tom Seccull of Queen's University Belfast have just used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to study a 181 foot (291 meter) asteroid named 2004 EW95, and have conclusively determined it has carbon inside it.

Using ESO telescopes, researchers have measured the composition of a lonely object lurking in the outer edges of our solar system and tracked its origin.

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As they exited their tight orbits and began their outward migrations, their forceful journeys caused small, rocky bodies in the inner solar system to be ejected from their homes, with some making their way all the way out to the Kuiper Belt - a thick and extended ring of comets, asteroids and other small objects that surrounds the outer solar system. The remarkable discovery of carbon-rich asteroid was made by the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

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. After painstaking measurements from multiple instruments at ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), a small team of astronomers led by Tom Seccull of Queen's University Belfast in the United Kingdom was able to measure the composition of the anomalous Kuiper Belt Object 2004 EW95, and thus determine that it is a carbonaceous asteroid. "It's like observing a giant mountain of coal against the pitch-black canvas of the night sky,"co-author Thomas Puzia, a researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, said in the statement".

Olivier Hainaut concludes, "The discovery of a carbonaceous asteroid in the Kuiper Belt is a key verification of one of the fundamental predictions of dynamical models of the early Solar System."Olivier Hainaut is an ESO astronomer". The researchers believe that the asteroid sling-shotted from the inner solar system some 4.5 billion years ago, and that it may provide insight into the early formation of our planets.

[2] Carbonaceous asteroids are those containing the element carbon or its various compounds.

These minerals suggest that the object formed under conditions similar to those that formed numerous carbonaceous asteroids closer to Earth. Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) typically have uninteresting and featureless spectra that reveal little information about their composition, so the presence of these two minerals helped to strengthen the case that 2004 EW95 was no ordinary KBO.