NASA finds new type of ancient asteroid loaded with water
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Featured Image Credit: NASA
Scientists have discovered a new type of asteroid estimated to be over 4.5 billion years old, which may just give us clues about how life on Earth developed.
Located in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the rocks could help explain how water first arrived on Earth.
This new discovery is thanks to a group of German researchers and a team at NASA, who used an infrared spectroscopy to look at how light was refracted off the asteroids.
After finding that there was water, they now theorise these asteroids were left over debris from the formation of the Solar System over 4.5 billion years ago.
The researchers at Heidelberg University in Germany even ran simulations to test whether the asteroids could have travelled from the outer Solar System to their current location.
These asteroids could have also helped to provide the water systems we have on Earth over billions of years ago, according to the researchers.
Although he wasn’t involved in project, Johns Hopkins University astronomer Andy Rivkin explained why the research was important.
"[These asteroids] would be perhaps the kind of objects that made it into the solar system and brought ice and organics with them," he told Mashable.
These ‘organics’ potentially brought by the asteroids could include carbon and other minerals, which were all essential building blocks for life on Earth.
Although no evidence of the meteorite material has been found on Earth, Rivkin says this doesn't rule out the theory.
He continued: "If you throw a snowball at Earth, it's going to not really make it through the atmosphere because it'll kind of heat up and melt and vaporize. But the water would be added to the atmosphere."
It’s likely that that similar asteroids may have also crashed elsewhere in the Solar System.
"Their cousins might have hit the Earth and brought some of that, as well as hitting Mars,” added Rivkin, who works in the university's Applied Physics lab.
While there’s been a lot of excitement surrounding the discovery, not everyone agrees with this theory.
Some scientists believe that Earth’s water came from the gases it released roughly 4.5 billion years ago. Meanwhile, others argue it was a combination of both.
While researchers continue to debate this, one thing is for certain: the discovery has changed how we view asteroids in the Solar System.
“These asteroids can help us better understand the origin and evolution of our solar system,” explained Driss Takir, who was the lead author of the study.
Scientists now want to get an even closer look at the object, with Driss adding that he would like high-resolution photographs of the asteroids to further the research.