Discovered a previously unknown class of water-rich asteroids

An international team of astronomers has managed to identify a previously unknown class of water-rich asteroids in the Solar System. In the distant past, they could have been one of its main “suppliers” to Earth.

Formation and evolution of the Solar System. Source: Nature Astronomy (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-023-01898-x

The discovery was made using infrared spectroscopy. Astronomers have managed to identify a group of asteroids that resemble the dwarf planet Ceres in their chemical composition.

Ceres is the largest object of the Main Asteroid Belt. It has a spherical shape and about 20% — 30% consists of water ice. It is believed that Ceres was originally formed at a much greater distance from the Sun and only then migrated to the Main Belt.

A group of Ceres-like asteroids is located in a limited area between Mars and Jupiter near the orbit of the dwarf planet. These are quite large objects by the standards of the Main Belt, their diameter exceeds 100 km. On their surface there are minerals that have arisen as a result of interaction with liquid water.

According to the researchers, like Ceres, these asteroids originate from the outer Solar System. This is indicated by both the composition of their surface and a large number of voids in the interiors. Because temperatures were not high enough shortly after the asteroids formed to turn them into a compact rock structure, they retained the porous and primitive character typical of outer ice worlds located far from the Sun. 

Scientists did not rule out that it was objects from this group that were one of the main suppliers of water to the young Earth. They could hardly be asteroids from the inner part of the Solar System, since they were usually waterless.

According to

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