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There is also water on the surface of asteroids

There is also water on the surface of asteroids

We already knew there was water on the moon, but for the first time scientists have discovered that it also exists on the surface of asteroids.

As is known, there are many objects in our solar system: from planets to moons, to comets and asteroids. Among the latter, in particular, there are more than a million and until now astronomers have always assumed that there was water that evaporated long ago. However, a new study overturns this hypothesis: thanks to data from the SOFIA infrared telescope, a team from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, discovered the planet. The presence of water on the asteroids Eris and Massalia.


Water discovered on asteroids for the first time

As expected, a team of astronomers from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) The presence of water molecules on the surface of asteroids was discovered for the first time. the studio By title Detection of molecular H2O on nominally anhydrous asteroidspublished in the scientific journal Journal of Planetary Researchthis was possible thanks to analysis of data from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia), a joint project between NASA and the German Space Agency.

Scientists focused in particular on Four silicate-rich asteroids: “Asteroids are the remains of the planetary formation process, so their composition varies depending on where they formed in the solar nebula. The distribution of water on asteroids is of particular interest, because it could shed light on how water is delivered to Earth, explained SWRI's Dr. Anicia Arredondo, lead author of the paper.

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From the moon to asteroids

“We have discovered a feature that is unambiguously attributed to molecular water on asteroids Iris and massalia -Arredondo said-. We built our research on the success of the team that discovered molecular water on the moon's sunlit surface. We thought we could use SOFIA to find this Spectral signature On other bodies.” And this is what actually happened.


SOFIA has already detected water molecules in one of the largest craters in the Moon's southern hemisphere, just as forms of hydrogen have been discovered on asteroids but without the ability to distinguish water from its “chemical relative” hydroxyl. Through the new study, the team was able to confirm that “based on the strength of the range of spectral characteristics,The abundance of water on the asteroid is consistent with that on the Moon “Illuminated by the Sun” and that “Similarly, on asteroids, water may also bind to minerals, be absorbed by silicates and trapped or dissolved in silicate glass.”

New scenarios for the presence of water in the solar system

The presence of water molecules has been demonstrated on the asteroids Eris and Massalia, but not on the other two objects under study, Partenope and Melpomene, where it was impossible to isolate the above-mentioned spectroscopic properties. But the SwRI team is optimistic, especially with the participation NASA's James Webb Space Telescopethe most powerful infrared space telescope which with its most precise optics will certainly be able to conduct a comprehensive investigation even in the most difficult conditions.

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“We made preliminary measurements of two other asteroids with Webb during the second orbit,” Arredondo said. We have another suggestion for next session Study 30 other targets. “These studies will increase our understanding of water distribution in the solar system.”