Small asteroid, small comet: It is a rare “hybrid” celestial body, the one that travels in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Named (248,370) 2005 Qn137, it has a core diameter of 3.2 km and a tail over 720,000 km in length and 1,400 km in width. His alien identity, obtained thanks to the Atlas asteroid research program, was presented at the American Astronomical Society’s Planetary Science Conference by Henry H. Hsieh, of the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona. A study, already shared on the arXiv website, could also have implications for the emergence of life on Earth.
The mysterious orb 248370 was discovered already in 2005: it was initially classified as an asteroid due to its orbit, and in later observations it was shown to be strangely active, with a coma and a tail similar to those formed on comets by sublimation of surface ice.
“In this sense it can be considered a major comet in the belt, which is part of a family that currently consists of 20 other objects,” Hsieh explains.
“248370 fits into the physical definitions of a comet, because it’s probably icy and releases matter into space, but it also has an asteroid orbit. This duality makes these things very interesting from a scientific point of view,” as well as to reconstruct the origin of life on Earth.
In fact, it is believed that part of the water of our planet is derived from the impact of asteroids coming from the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. If an asteroid-comet hybrid like 248370 contains ice as it appears, it could give us a better understanding of the presence and distribution of icy bodies in the deeper part of the Solar System.
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