Dwarf Planet-Sized Asteroid from Our Solar System Makes Astronomers Wonder About its Origin

Dwarf Planet-Sized Asteroid from Our Solar System Makes Astronomers Wonder About its Origin

Whether we like to admit it or not, humanity still has a lot more to learn about the Solar System. The eight planets are all unique, and the most amazing thing is that one of them harbours the only known intelligent life forms. But we must also focus a bit on other regions of the Solar System, as a new discovery reveals something astonishing.

A diamond-studded meteor known as Almahata Sitta (AhS) exploded on the skies of Sudan twelve years ago. Scientists gathered data about the event, and they can now bet that there’s a giant asteroid about the size of the dwarf planet Ceres (the largest object from the asteroid belt) floating somewhere in the Solar System.

Carbonaceous chondrite offers clues about the “parent asteroid”

After going into the Sudanese desert to collect an amount of debris, researchers put data together and concluded that the meteor from 2008 could belong to a giant asteroid the size of Ceres. Live Science comes to engage us into this wonderful cosmic journey.

Almahata Sitta is made of the carbonaceous chondrite material. The research team analyzed a 50 milligrams sample of AhS using a microscope, and they found a unique mineral makeup.

The meteorite was carrying an unusual suite of minerals that can form at “intermediate” temperatures and pressures: lower than what you can find inside of a planet, but higher than what you can expect from the interior of a typical asteroid. The mineral makeup offers clues about the “parent asteroid” that gave birth to a given meteor.

Vicky Hamilton, who’s a co-author of the study and a planetary geologist from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, declared:

Some of these meteorites are dominated by minerals providing evidence for exposure to water at low temperatures and pressures,

The composition of other meteorites points to heating in the absence of water.

Amphibole enters the scene

Amphibole is one mineral that also requires prolonged exposure to water for development. The high amphibole content from AhS suggests that the piece broke off a parent asteroid that has never left meteorites on Earth before.

The study paper was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.


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