Published: Sun, May 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

"Exiled" asteroid shouldn't be where it is

A 300-kilometer-long asteroid, which is rich in carbon and moves in the distant Kaper at the edge of our solar system, about four billion kilometers from Earth, has discovered an worldwide team of astronomers.

There's a good chance that 2004 EW95 is extremely old, having first been formed in the asteroid belt and then moving to the Kuiper belt all within the earliest days of our solar system's formation. With latest observations, it could help us understand more about the evolutionary history of our solar system.

It is likely to have been formed in the very early days of our home star system, before being thrown out into the void by the gravitational pushing and pulling of the gas giant planets, which "rampaged through the Solar System, ejecting small rocky bodies".

Measurements taken using the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope allowed the team to determine it was formed from carbon, suggesting it originated in the inner solar system.

In the wake of careful estimations from numerous instruments at ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), a little group of space experts drove by Tom Seccull of Queen's University Belfast from the United Kingdom could quantify the structure of the irregular Kuiper Belt Object 2004 EW95, and in this manner establishing that it is a carbonaceous asteroid. But these powerful instruments didn't change the fact that the asteroid, which stretches 186 miles (300 kilometers) across, is 2.5 billion miles (4 billion kilometers) away from Earth.

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"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.

However, its appearance was "clearly distinct from the other observed outer Solar System objects" Seccull said. On the other hand, the asteroid's light reflection information indicated 2004 EW95 also lasted a huge blow which caused it to warm up appreciably.

For his part, the ESO astronomer Olivier Hainaut, stressed that "the discovery of a carbonaceous asteroid in the Kuiper belt is a key verification for one of the fundamental predictions of the dynamic models of the early Solar System".

[2] Carbonaceous asteroids are those containing the element carbon or its various compounds. "We had to use a pretty advanced data processing technique to get as much out of the data as possible". The unusual object detected is the carbon-rich asteroid. But they started their outwards migration not long after the solar system was formed, and as they did so, they created all sorts of chaos.

The 300km-long asteroid was discovered by astronomer Dr Wesley Fraser, of Queen's University Belfast, in Northern Ireland. The odd asteroid traveled billions of kilometers to reach its current home in the Kuiper Belt. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence.

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