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Astronomers have discovered two unusually red objects in the asteroid belt


An artistic interpretation of the asteroid belt.

An artistic interpretation of the asteroid belt.
Image: NASA

They are red, they are big enough, and they have nothing to do. in the main asteroid belt, but their discovery confirms the difficult conditions in place when the solar system was still forming.

New research work published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, details the discovery of two extremely red main belt asteroids. Called Pompey 203 and Justitius 269, the asteroids have a redder spectral signature than any other asteroid in the main belt, this densely populated asteroid strip located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The new newspaper was headed by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronomer Sunao Hasegawa.

It is important to note that these red asteroids resemble trans-Neptunian objects, that is, objects located at arm’s length.farther than Neptune, the planet farthest from the Sun (not counting the dwarf planet Pluto). This could mean that 203 Pompeii and 269 Justitia formed there in the Kuiper belt. and then drifted inward when the solar system was still young. If confirmed, the new discovery shows how chaotic conditions were at the time. and that materials from different parts of the solar system were sometimes mixed.

The aim of the study was to document the distribution and composition of large asteroids in the main belt. Large asteroids, especially those over 60 miles (100 km) wide, probably survived the early days of the solar system. By studying these objects, scientists hoped to catch a glimpse of what conditions were like about 4 billion years ago.


To do this, astronomers conducted spectroscopic observations of the main belt in the visible and near infrared range using a telescope (IRTF) and the Astronomical Observatory of Seoul National University (SAO). Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Hawaii participated in this international collaboration.i, Seoul National University, Kyoto University and several other institutions.

Asteroid 203 Pompey has a diameter of 68 miles (110 km), and 269 Justitia is only half the size. Both have an unusually red spectrum, which means they reflect a lot of red light. They are even redder than D-type asteroids, which were previously considered the reddest objects in the asteroid belt.

The outer solar system is filled with materials left over from the formation of the solar system, including planetesimals (asteroids) and centaurs (ice planetesimals located between Jupiter and Neptune). These distant objects are very red in color and contain complex organic compounds such as methane and methanol ice. These compounds, when viewed through a spectrograph, give the asteroid a reddish tint. In contrast, objects in the inner solar system have scant traces of organic material, so they tend to reflect blue light.

“It is believed that asteroids 203 Pompey and 269 Justitia formed near the outer edge of the solar system behind a distant line of organic snow, and then moved into the asteroid belt in the early epoch of the formation of the solar system,” notes JAXA. Press release… By “organic snow line” scientists mean the place in the solar system where methanol and methane turn into ice.

This discovery suggests that some asteroids in the main belt formed outside the solar system, and that a population of these objects likely exists within the main belt. The next good step would be to determine the exact proportion of the population of this red asteroid. What’s more, new research demonstrates that the main belt is a good location for a future mission. Rather than travel to the outer edge of the solar system for samples of Kuiper belt objects, all we would need to do is send a probe into the asteroid belt, where it could study asteroids, both internal objects and those that have formed far away. long away. …

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