Strange! Asteroids spit out PEBBLES! Secret revealed by this meteorite

A meteorite found on Earth has confirmed the mysterious behavior of asteroids where they spit out pebbles in space, according to a new study. This offers a new perspective on the composition of asteroids.

| Updated on: Aug 12 2022, 15:05 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)
Asteroid Bennu
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A study has discovered evidence on a meteorite found on Earth for the mysterious behavior of asteroids spitting pebbles in space. (NASA)

A couple of years ago, NASA OSIRIS-REx spacecraft discovered something strange and puzzling. Exploring the asteroid Bennu, it found that the space rock would mysteriously eject pebble-sized rocks in space. Scientists were not able to figure out the reason behind this phenomenon. Till date, this weird occurrence has confused astronomers on Earth. But now, there might be a breakthrough soon after an unbelievable coincidence led to a group of researchers finding a meteorite which might unravel this secret behavior of asteroids. Read on to know more.

According to a new study published in the Nature Astronomy journal, the meteorite Aguas Zarcas which struck the Earth in 2019 and was named after the Costa Rican town where it fell, has shown similar characteristics in its composition. Small and hard pebble-like structures have been found inside it which apparently are much harder than the rest of the meteorite.

Interestingly, the astronomers were not even looking for this phenomenon. The discovery of these pebbles is nothing short of a miraculous coincidence.

Scientists find evidence for the spitting behavior of asteroids by accident

“We were trying to isolate very tiny minerals from the meteorite by freezing it with liquid nitrogen and thawing it with warm water, to break it up. That works for most meteorites, but this one was kind of weird — we found some compact fragments that wouldn't break apart,” said Xin Yang, a graduate student in geochemistry at the University of Chicago and the lead author of the study in a statement.

Instead of crushing the particles and continuing the research, they decided to check out these pebble sized particles to understand why it did not break apart, according to a report by

“Xin had a very open mind. I'm not going to crush these pebbles to sand; this is interesting,” said Philipp Heck, senior author of the study.

After doing a CT scan of the rocks, the researchers found out that the rocks were not spherical but squished and they all had the same orientation. It was clear that the pebbles had experienced something the rest of the meteorite didn't. By making computer models, they found that a possibility could be that the asteroid from where the meteorite broke apart must have undergone a collision with another asteroid. The rock particles must have broken from the asteroid but stayed stuck inside its surface. Then thermal cycles of coming close to the Sun and moving away made these rocks more brittle and harder which would often escape from the asteroids giving it a “spitting” appearance.

This is just a theory at this point but this sheds some light on what might be happening to these asteroids.

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First Published Date: 12 Aug, 15:05 IST
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