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Astronomers discovered Exiled asteroid in outer reaches of solar system

12 May 2018, 08:15 | Justin Tyler

Lonely 'exiled weirdo asteroid' found on the edge of our solar system

Carbonaceous Asteroid Found Exiled At The Far End Of Our Solar System

The exiled asteroid was visible because of its unique reflectance spectrum, a pattern of wavelengths of light reflected from an object. 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.

If these theories are correct, some of the asteroids that orbit around Kuiper Belt should be the same carbonaceous asteroids that are commonly found in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. But now, an global team of astronomers has discovered Kuiper Belt Object 2004 EW95 - a carbon-rich asteroid that supports our gas giants' destructive tendencies.

An artist impression of 2004 EW95.

The "exiled" asteroid was first noticed by Wesley Fraser, an astronomer at Queen's University Belfast in the United Kingdom, during routine observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, due to the asteroid's distinctive reflectance spectrum.

Its composition suggests the asteroid must have been formed in the inner Solar System, likely in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, before migrating to its outer reaches, said the team.

As asteroids usually contain material available in the region of their formation, the theory, popularly dubbed as the Grand Tack Hypothesis, meant some of the asteroids present in the colder regions beyond Neptune should be rich in carbon, iron, and silicon, just like rocky bodies formed closer to the sun. As astronomer Thomas Puccia of the Catholic University of Chile said, "it's like watching a giant coal mountain with a dark night sky background".

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.

Two features of the object's spectra were particularly eye-catching and corresponded to the presence of ferric oxides and phyllosilicates.

"Given 2004 EW95's present-day abode in the icy outer reaches of the solar system, this implies that it has been flung out into its present orbit by a migratory planet in the early days of the solar system", said Dr Seccull. 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.

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". It was formed in the inner Solar System.

Further analysis of the asteroid revealed that it is a carbonaceous asteroid (C-type asteroid).

These minerals suggest that the object formed under conditions similar to those that formed numerous carbonaceous asteroids closer to Earth. 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.

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