The carbon-rich asteroid 2004 EW95 is a relic of the early Solar System, exiled at an early age. Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
In the freezing realm beyond Neptune, known as the Kuiper Belt, lurks the first carbon-rich asteroid ever discovered that far out in the Solar System. An international team of astronomers used European Southern Observatory (ESO)’s telescopes to examine the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2004 EW95, which astronomers now believe originally formed in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and then was flung beyond the orbit of Neptune into its new home.
Collisions, crashes and catastrophe wreaked havoc in the early Solar System, when the gas giants dominated proceedings. Theoretical models predict that the gas giants would take small rocky bodies from the inner part of our solar neighbourhood and eject them to the farthest reaches beyond Neptune. In principle, this would mean a small number of rock bodies should be found in the Kuiper Belt, such as carbon-rich asteroids formally known as carbonaceous asteroids.
This recent research presents evidence for the first reliably observed carbonaceous asteroid found in the Kuiper Belt region, with therefore strengthens the argument for these theoretical models of the young Solar System. This ...