'Weirdo' asteroid offers new insight into chaotic solar system

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An global group of astronomers has utilized ESO telescopes to explore a relic of the first Solar System.

During the early, chaotic, days of our solar system, space objects were flung from the inner solar system to far-off distant orbits, astronomers say.

Using ESO telescopes, researchers have measured the composition of a lonely object lurking in the outer edges of our solar system and tracked its origin.

[3] Other inner Solar System objects have previously been detected in the outer reaches of the Solar System, but this is the first carbonaceous asteroid to be found far from home in the Kuiper Belt.

The presence of these materials had never before been confirmed in Kuiper Belt Objects and is strong evidence that 2004 EW95 does not belong to Kuiper Belt.

"The reflectance spectrum of 2004 EW95 was clearly distinct from the other observed outer Solar System objects", explains lead author Seccull.

It's not the first time objects that originated in the inner solar system were found so far away, but none were confirmed to the level of quality of 2004 EW95. This inquisitive object likely framed in the asteroid belt amongst Mars and Jupiter and has been flung billions of kilometers from its original home to its present home in the Kuiper Belt. They noticed something unusual about one object that measured almost 190 miles long and was located 2.5 billion miles from Earth.

Further analysis of the asteroid revealed that it is a carbonaceous asteroid (C-type asteroid). Instead, it appeared to have formed in a hotter environment, closer to the Sun.


Researchers, headed by Tom Sequoul of Queens University, Belfast, who published the Astrophysical Journal Letters, estimate that because of the long distance from the Sun, the asteroid's temperature is minus 235 degrees Celsius. "The rock had been altered by the presence of liquid water".

Since Kuiper Belt Object 2004 EW95's spectrum shines brightly, its light can be broken down into different wavelengths, enabling researchers to determine its chemical composition. However, identifying the chemical composition of such a distant object is extremely hard.

As the asteroid is far away and at the same time very dark because of its abundant carbon, its observation was very hard.

Still, the team was able to overcome these difficulties, finding that the asteroid contains carbon, iron oxides, and phyllosilicates (sheet-like silicate minerals).

An asteroid ejected from our infant Solar System found refuge billions of kilometres away, beyond the orbit of Neptune, where it has now been spotted, astronomers said on Wednesday.

Theoretical models of our early Solar System describe a tempestuous time with gas giant planets on the rampage, ejecting small rocky bodies from its the system's centre to far-flung orbits.

We should also probably be thankful for this migration of the gas giants. Hot Jupiters are believed to deter the formation of rocky planets such as the Earth.

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