A team of astronomers has recently discovered a very carbon-rich asteroid in the Kuiper Belt. This is the icy region located just beyond Neptune. This ancient asteroid is also the first of its kind that experts found outside the inner solar system. According to a study which the Astrophysical Journal Letters recently published, the asteroid called 2004 EW95 formed in the asteroid belt that’s between Mars and Jupiter. However, soon after that, it most likely arrived to the Kuiper Belt. According to the researchers, the discovery of this ancient rock could offer more details about that very early time.
When it comes to the early solar system, experts are sure that it was a far more chaotic than it is now. According to certain models, during those early days, objects were flying from the inner solar system to far corners in distant orbits. Taking these theories into account, it should also mean that the Kuiper Belt should mostly contain carbon-rich objects. While there have been theories about objects exiled far out in the solar system, nobody has found any examples. Until 2004 EW95 revealed itself.
The unusual ancient rock that amazed astronomers
It seems that this is the very first time that such a C-type asteroid has been discovered as far in the Kuiper Belt. This is the best evidence experts have when it comes to the activity in the early solar system. Wesley Fraser, an astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast, is the one who first noticed the unusual rock. He stumbled upon it during some routine observations with the Hubble Space Telescope.
Fraser managed to notice it because of the asteroid’s unique reflectance spectrum. Tom Seccull, the leader of the recent study, said that the fact that it was so noticeable made them look twice. And they were not wrong to do so. Now, experts might have the strongest evidence of the early solar system right under their noses.
Image source: flickr