Exiled Asteroid Discovered Past Neptune In Kuiper Belt: How Did It Get All The Way Out There?

Scientists have discovered the first carbon-rich asteroid found in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune. The asteroid originally formed between Mars and Jupiter.  ( ESO / M. Kornmesser )

The first carbon-rich asteroid has been discovered in the Kuiper Belt. This is strange because the asteroid is thought to have originated in the asteroid belt in between Mars and Jupiter.

This leaves scientists wondering how the asteroid traveled so far out in the first place.

Asteroid In The Kuiper Belt

In a new paper published in the journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a team of international scientists discovered that the Kuiper Belt object 2004 EW95 is a carbon-rich asteroid. Scientists are trying to figure out how the asteroid made its way from the asteroid belt to beyond Neptune and into the Kuiper Belt.

In the paper, the team of scientists is able to make theoretical models of what the early solar system may have been like. They used data gathered using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. Using the models, they suggest that the Kuiper Belt is possibly home to a small number of rocky bodies from the inner solar system.

Researchers were able to measure the composition of 2004 EW95 upon seeing the asteroid's specific pattern of wavelengths of light reflected from it. It was different from the rest of the objects found in the Kuiper Belt.

Using the X-Shooter and FOR52 instruments from the Very Large Telescope, they were able to obtain detailed measurements of the pattern of light being reflected which allowed them to come up with the asteroid's composition.

Even while using the Very Large Telescope, scientists say it was still difficult to observe the asteroid. And even though it is 185 miles (300 kilometers) across, it is 2.5 billion miles (4 billion kilometers) from Earth. In addition, the asteroid was moving and the darkness made it harder to observe.

How Did The Asteroid Get All The Way Out There?

Researchers are still not sure how the asteroid made the Kuiper Belt home but they do have theories regarding its presence there. Lead author Tom Seccull says that the asteroid could have been flung out into the Kuiper Belt by a migratory planet from the early days of the solar system.

Current models for the formation of the solar system such as the grand tack hypothesis and the Nice model show that the giant planets may have first shifted towards the inner solar system before moving out again. This could have disrupted the objects in the inner solar system, causing objects to move from their origin point.

Other objects in the Kuiper Belt are seen to have atypical spectra but they haven't been confirmed to be asteroids.

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