• September 17, 2021

Exclusive: 2 Red Objects Found In the Asteroid Belt. They Shouldn’t Be There.

 Exclusive: 2 Red Objects Found In the Asteroid Belt. They Shouldn’t Be There.


Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot quotes the New York Times: Two red things are hiding in a part of the solar system where they shouldn’t be. The space rocks may have come from beyond Neptune, and potentially offer hints at the chaos of the early solar system.

Scientists led by Sunao Hasegawa from JAXA, the Japanese space agency, reported in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on July 26, 2021 that two objects, called 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia, spotted in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter appear to have originated beyond Neptune. The discoveries could one day provide direct evidence of the chaos that existed in the early solar system.

“If true it would be a huge deal,” says Hal Levison, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, who was not involved in the research…

“People have been talking about some fraction of asteroids coming from the Kuiper belt for quite a while now,” said Josh Emery, a planetary scientist from Northern Arizona University who was not involved in the paper. He said the research “definitely takes a step” toward finding evidence to support that hypothesis. Not everyone is convinced just yet. Dr. Levison, who was also not involved in the paper, says objects should become less red as they approach the sun. “It seems to be inconsistent with our models,” said Dr. Levison, who is the head of NASA’s Lucy mission, which is scheduled to launch in October to study Jupiter’s Trojans [asteroids captured in its orbit].

Michaël Marsset from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-author on the paper, agrees that it’s not clear why they would be so red, but it is possibly related to how long it took them to become implanted into the asteroid belt. Some Trojans may also be as red, but haven’t been found yet.

To truly confirm the origin of 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia, a spacecraft would likely need to visit them.



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