"Exiled" asteroid shouldn't be where it is


With all this information, the research team concluded that 2004 EW95 probably formed between Mars and Jupiter, and was dragged along as the gas giants moved to their current orbits, thus offering important information about the dynamics of the early solar system. Most of these asteroids were ejected toward the Sun, where other carbon-rich objects reside, but some were sent in the opposite direction, toward the outer edge of our solar system. These theories also dictate that the Kuiper Belt should contain objects like carbon-rich, or C-type, asteroids.

The space rock called 2004 EW95 is the first of its kind that researchers found exiled from the inner Solar System. The asteroid first came to notice during routine observations from Hubble Space Telescope and the way it reflected ultraviolet light was completely different from other bodies in the group.

Tom Seccull, from Queen's University Belfast in the United Kingdom, and colleagues found that an unusual object at the Kuiper Belt, a region at the edge of the Solar System and beyond the orbit of planet Neptune, is a carbon-rich asteroid.

So how did the asteroid, which likely originated in the inner parts of our solar system, migrate so much? The new asteroid which is now discovered in the Kuiper belt was eventually hurled out billions of miles from the asteroid belt present in between the Jupiter and the Mars.

Some scientific models already suggested that some carbonaceous asteroids could have been expelled to the Kuiper belt, but until now no one had been able to detect it reliably.

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"The reflectance spectrum of 2004 EW95 was clearly distinct from the other observed outer Solar System objects", said lead researcher, Tom Seccull of Queen's University Belfast, in a news release.

"It's like observing a giant mountain of coal against the pitch black canvas of the night sky", said Professor Thomas Puzia from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, who co-authored the study.

The astronomers noted that two features of the object were particularly eye-catching and corresponded to the presence of ferric oxides and phyllosilicates.

This research was presented in a paper entitled "2004 EW95: A Phyllosilicate-bearing Carbonaceous Asteroid in the Kuiper Belt" by T. Seccull et al., which appeared in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The researchers believe that the asteroid sling-shotted from the inner solar system some 4.5 billion years ago, and that it may provide insight into the early formation of our planets. "The discovery of a carbonaceous asteroid in the Kuiper Belt is a key verification of one of the fundamental predictions of dynamical models of the early Solar System". Some recent notions indicate they were thrown by renegade gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn through the first days of the solar system's creation.

The dramatic distance and the asteroid's relatively small size make it an extremely hard target to track, and the fact that it features carbon molecules, which makes it appear darker in color, doesn't make it any easier.