Mysterious RED asteroids found around Neptune could reveal big secrets

Neptune is surrounded by strange red asteroids. And now, a study claims that they could open a window to the origin of the solar system.

| Updated on: Apr 07 2023, 17:52 IST
Asteroid fun facts in pics: NASA reveals all you need to know
Asteroid and Earth
1/5 Space is full of objects, out of which only a few have been discovered. Asteroids are some of these objects. If you are not aware about the dangerous objects called asteroids, here are some facts you should know. First, did you know that asteroids are sometimes called minor planets? Well, they are. (Pixabay)
2/5 Differences between an Asteroid, Comet, Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite: According to the information provided by NASA, Asteroid is a relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun. Comet is a relatively small, at times active, object whose ice can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas. Meteoroid is a small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun. Meteor is the light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere and vaporizes, in short, a shooting star. While, Meteorite is a meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands upon the Earth's surface. (NASA)
3/5 Asteroid: Size, frequency and impact- More than 100 tons of dust and sand sized particles are bombarded towards Earth everyday, according to NASA. While, about once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth's atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface. Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area. Only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth's civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences. Space rocks smaller than about 25 meters (about 82 feet) will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth's atmosphere and cause little or no damage. By comparison, asteroids that populate the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and pose no threat to Earth, can be as big as 940 kilometers (about 583 miles) across. (NASA)
4/5 How is an Asteroid Orbit Calculated? An asteroid's orbit is computed by finding the elliptical path about the sun that best fits the available observations of the object. That is, the object's computed path about the sun is adjusted until the predictions of where the asteroid should have appeared in the sky at several observed times match the positions where the object was actually observed to be at those same times. (Pixabay)
5/5 What is NASA doing to find and learn more about potentially hazardous asteroids and comets? NASA has established a Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), managed in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The PDCO ensures the early detection of potentially hazardous objects (PHOs) - asteroids and comets whose orbits are predicted to bring them within 0.05 Astronomical Units of Earth (5 million miles or 8 million kilometers) and of a size large enough to reach Earth's surface - that is, greater than approximately 30 to 50 meters. NASA tracks and characterizes these objects and issues warnings about potential impacts, providing timely and accurate information. NASA also leads the coordination of U.S. Government planning for response to an actual impact threat. (AFP)
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Know why the red asteroids of Neptune are becoming a key area of interest for astronomers. (Pixabay)

The fascination of scientists with understanding the origin of the solar system is never ending. Recently, in an attempt to uncover the secrets around it, NASA sent its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to collect samples from asteroid Bennu, which will reach Earth in the later half of this year. And now, out of the same curiosity, astronomers have turned to Neptune to understand this grand mystery. Not exactly Neptune, but the area surrounding it, which is filled with mysterious red asteroids. A new study claims that it could reveal how our solar system came to be.

The study was conducted by NASA astronomer Bryce Bolin and has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. The study focuses on the red color of the asteroids and highlights that the color points towards some rare compounds which are not seen in asteroids in the inner solar system. And that, according to Bolin, could reveal a lot about the early days of the solar system.

Red asteroids can unlock the mystery of solar system

These asteroids, also known as Neptunian Trojans, revolve around the Sun parallel to the planet. They are located in the gravitationally stable points between Neptune and the Sun and between Neptune and Pluto. They were first discovered in 2001 and till date less than 50 such space rocks have been properly identified.

In the study, Bolin's team synthesized data from four different telescopes to track 18 red asteroids. The process which took two years to complete, also analyzed the red color of the asteroids. According to the analysis, the red color comes from volatile compounds like ammonia and methanol. These chemical compounds are frozen into ice. The researchers believe that the asteroids closer to the Sun also contained these compounds but because of the heat from the Sun, these compounds evaporated, leaving behind the gray, rocky structures.

But if this postulate is correct, it would mean that the red asteroids around Neptune probably came from farther away and were drawn towards the planet in the early days of the solar system and were trapped.

This would mean that a deeper analysis of these asteroids can reveal the formation of asteroids in the solar system and how their structure and composition changed over the course of 4.6 billion years.

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First Published Date: 07 Apr, 17:50 IST
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