The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency “Jaxa” announced that it has detected two mysterious objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The agency believes that they are loaded with “complex” organic matter, and they should not have been there.
Named for these space rocks, 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia, 203 Pompeja is about 110 km wide, while the smaller 269 Justitia is only 55 km in diameter.
These two asteroids are found in the rock group between Mars and Jupiter, and are distinctly different from their neighbors.
Both 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia reflect more bright red light than other surrounding asteroids due to the increased presence of “complex organic matter” on their surface, such as carbon or methane. According to Russia Today.
Asteroids such as these are not usually found within the belt, which is generally made up of blue debris, but is common among trans-Neptunian objects and Centaurs (small bodies orbiting between Jupiter and Neptune), where astronomers believe they originated.
Objects in the inner solar system tend to reflect more blue light because they lack organic matter, while objects in the outer solar system are redder because they contain more organic matter.
The Japanese space agency believes that the movements of these asteroids came from the chaos of the early solar system, where the movement of huge planets such as Jupiter, caused the gravitational fields to become more chaotic and sent these two objects into the belt.
This event must have occurred during the early stages of our cosmic environment, because both have stable circular orbits.
“In order to get these organics, you have to initially have a lot of ice on the surface. So it must have formed,” Michael Marset of the University of Massachusetts, who worked on the recently published paper on these asteroids, told The New York Times. In a very cold environment. Then the solar radiation from the ice produces these complex organic substances.”
The presence of these asteroids could be important to the beautiful model, which argues that Saturn, Uranus and Neptune have been moving outward from the Solar System over a period of a hundred million years, while Jupiter has been moving slightly inward.
It is estimated that the asteroid belt contains between 1.1 and 1.9 million asteroids larger than one kilometer in diameter, and millions of asteroids much smaller than that.
However, those over 100 km in diameter are generally believed to have avoided the destructive physics of the early solar system, and thus could provide key insights for this age.
Not all scientists agree. Hal Levison, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado and head of NASA’s Lucy mission to study Jupiter asteroids, said the asteroids should have become less reddish as they approached the sun. As such, it is not entirely certain why asteroids are so red, but unlocking this secret may be related to understanding how they became part of the belt.
To solve this mystery, it will likely be necessary to send a spacecraft to it for closer study, something that JAXA believes is “worth considering as a candidate destination” in the future.
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