According to a new study released yesterday in the Nature Astronomy journal, the majority of the asteroids and meteorites within the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter originate from ancient planets in our early solar system.
The study, carried out by the researchers from the University of Florida, said that approximately 85% of the about 200,000 space rock found in the Asteroid Belt originate from the collisions involving about six primordial planets that inhabited the region between Mars and Jupiter in the early history of our solar system. The research, as its authors described it, is essential for astronomers to understand the origins of asteroids and other space rocks better and also to comprehend what is the composition of the rocky planets like Earth and Mars.
Space rocks within the Asteroid Belt originate from ancient planets, and understanding this process may help astronomers detect Earth-like exoplanets
“These large bodies whiz by the Earth, so of course we’re very concerned about how many of these there are and what types of material are in them. If ever one of these comes towards the earth, and we want to deflect it, we need to know what its nature is,” explained Stanley Dermott, a researcher from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida, and the study’s leading author.
The science team headed by Dermott managed to prove that asteroids’ and meteorites’ size and composition dramatically influence their trajectories. The research also indicated that the different features showed by the meteorites found on our planet have been caused by the alterations that took place in ancient planets that inhabited our solar system more than 4 billion years ago.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually trace the origins of all asteroids in the main asteroid belt, not just those in the inner belt, to a small number of known parent bodies,” Dermott said.
According to the scientists, understanding the ancient planets and how the space rocks evolved from them will help astronomers detect where Earth-like exoplanets exist in the Universe.