Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Primitive asteroids in the main asteroid belt may have formed far from the sun

17.07.2009
Many of the objects found today in the asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter may have formed in the outermost reaches of the solar system, according to an international team of astronomers led by scientists from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

The team used numerical simulations to show that some comet-like objects residing in a disk outside the original orbit of the planets were scattered across the solar system and into the outer asteroid belt during a violent phase of planetary evolution.

Usually, the solar system is considered a place of relative permanence, with changes occurring gradually over hundreds of millions to billions of years. New models of planet formation indicate, however, that at specific times, the architecture of the solar system experienced dramatic upheaval.

In particular, it now seems probable that approximately 3.9 billion years ago, the giant planets of our solar system -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune -- rearranged themselves in a tumultuous spasm. "This last major event of planet formation appears to have affected nearly every nook and cranny of the solar system," says lead author Dr. Hal Levison of SwRI.

Key evidence for this event was first identified in the samples returned from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts. They tell us about an ancient cataclysmic bombardment where large asteroids and comets rained down on the Moon.

Scientists now recognize that this event was not limited solely to the Moon; it also affected the Earth and many other solar system bodies. "The existence of life on Earth, as well as the conditions that made our world habitable for us, are strongly linked to what happened at this distant time," states Dr. David Nesvorny of SwRI.

The same dynamical conditions that devastated the planets also led to the capture of some would-be impactors in the asteroid belt. "In the classic movie 'Casablanca,' everybody comes to Rick's. Apparently throughout the solar system, the cool hangout for small objects is the asteroid belt," says Dr. William Bottke of SwRI.

Once in the asteroid belt, the embedded comet-like objects began to beat up both themselves and the asteroids. "Our model shows that comets are relatively easy to break up when hit by something, at least when compared to typical asteroids. It is unavoidable that some of the debris went on to land on asteroids, the Moon and the Earth. In fact, some of the leftovers may still be arriving today," says Dr. Alessandro Morbidelli of the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur in Nice, France.

The team believes the surprising similarities between some micrometeorites landing on Earth and comet samples returned by NASA's Stardust mission are no accident. "There has been lots of debate about the nature of micrometeorites reaching the Earth," says Dr. Matthieu Gounelle of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. "Some believe they are asteroidal, while others argue they are cometary. Our work suggests that in a sense, both camps may be right."

"Some of the meteorites that once resided in the asteroid belt show signs they were hit by 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago. Our model allows us to make the case they were hit by captured comets or perhaps their fragments," adds Dr. Kleomenis Tsiganis of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. "If so, they are telling us the same intriguing story as the lunar samples, namely that the solar system apparently went berserk and reconfigured itself about 4 billion years ago."

Overall, the main asteroid belt contains a surprising diversity of objects ranging from primitive ice/rock mixtures to igneous rocks. The standard model used to explain this assumes that most asteroids formed in place from a primordial disk that experienced radical chemical changes within this zone. This model shows, however, that the observed diversity of the asteroid belt is not a direct reflection of the intrinsic compositional variation of the proto-planetary disk. These results fundamentally change our view of the asteroid belt.

Additional tests of this model will come from studies of meteorites, the asteroid belt, planet formation and the Moon. "The Moon and the asteroid belt may be the best and most accessible places in the solar system to understand this critical part of solar system history," says Levison. "We believe key evidence from these cold airless bodies may help us unlock the biggest 'cold case' of all time."

The article, "The Contamination of the Asteroid Belt by Primordial Trans-Neptunian Objects," by Hal Levison, William Bottke, Alessandro Morbidelli, Matthieu Gounelle, David Nesvorny and Kleomenis Tsiganis, was published in the July 16 issue of Nature.

Funding for this research was provided by NASA's Outer Planets Research and Origins of Solar Systems programs. Additional support was provided by NASA's Lunar Science Institute.

Maria Martinez | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.swri.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>