A team of researchers who studied a small fragment of a meteorite said that it probably originated from a previously unknown parent asteroid.
Although researchers, scientists and amateur observers around the world have discovered hundreds of thousands of asteroids, this is only a fraction of what probably exists in space. The more asteroids detected, the more they can be studied and analyzed.
Now, scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Texas have identified a potentially new meteorite parent asteroid by studying a small meteorite shard that arrived on Earth about ten years ago.
The SwRI-led team was tasked with studying the composition of a 50 mg piece of meteorite, which indicated that its parent body was an asteroid about the size of Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid’s main belt, and formed in the presence of water at medium temperatures and pressures.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, dr. Vicky Hamilton said carbon chondrite meteorites like this are significant because they record geological activity in the earliest stages of the solar system and provide insight into the history of their parent bodies.
“Some of these meteorites are dominated by minerals, providing evidence of exposure to water at low temperatures and pressures. The composition of other meteorites suggests warming in the absence of water. Evidence of metamorphism in the presence of water in medium conditions is so far absent. “
Hamilton said a number of hydrated minerals, especially amphibole, were identified by spectral analysis, a rare discovery in carbon chondrite meteorites. It indicates “mean temperatures and pressures and an extended period of water change” on a parent asteroid at least 643 km in diameter, but could be up to 1,770 km.
Key information on the formation of the solar system
This discovery follows two missions to collect samples of the famous asteroids Ryugu and Bennu. In October, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission team collected more than 60 grams of surface material from the asteroid Bennu, and the sample was due to return to Earth in 2023. Meanwhile, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft returned to Earth earlier this month with dust from the asteroid Ryugu.
Samples from Ryugu could give researchers an important insight into the early evolution of the planets and help explain the origin of water on Earth. According to Nature, approximately 10 pieces of material from Ryugu will be sent to NASA in December 2021 in exchange for samples from Bennu.
Following the success of the Ryugu mission, Ed Kruzins, director of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at the Commonwealth Organization for Scientific and Industrial Research, said: “Samples containing valuable asteroid material will provide scientists with key information about the formation of the solar system. ”