Astronomers discover asteroid with common mineral in Earth’s mantle

Earlier this year, astronomers discovered that a somewhat exotic asteroid was roaming around Venus, having been the first of its kind in a series of others already in demand. Not much bigger than a small mountain, the most intriguing is its composition: it seems that the 2020 AV2, as it was named, is rich in olivine, a mineral compound formed by magnesium and iron silicates and found abundantly in the depths of the Earth. Both he and his “hidden brothers” are believed to have formed in the early Solar System.

According to previous studies, more than 1 million asteroids roam in a belt beyond Mars and are guided by Jupiter’s gravity. Only 23 of them were detected near our planet, having been diverted from their orbits by disturbances from other bodies, but scientists have long suspected the existence of a larger group in that region. It is very difficult to visualize them, since they appear on the horizon only at dawn and dusk, against the brightness of the sun.

An asteroid belt exists beyond the orbit of Mars.Source: Reproduction

Nobody had the luck of researchers who, on January 4, with a small research telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California, finally came across a specimen. We are talking about the 2020 AV2, which is just 1.5 kilometers wide and has a 151-day orbit around Astro Rei.

Francesca DeMeo, an asteroid hunter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who is part of the team, celebrated: “Being able to see a specimen of this new population and it being composed of olivine was something really unlikely to happen. That makes the result of even cooler search “.

Astronomical Hunger Games

To learn what 2020 AV2 is made of, Marcel Popescu, a researcher at the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy, and his colleagues used telescopes in the Canary Islands to understand how light is reflected in the celestial body and came across absorption lines that gave clues chemical composition. To the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical, he declared: “We cannot say with certainty that olivine is the dominant mineral, but it is certainly abundant on its surface”.

In a separate study, brothers Carlos and Raul de la Fuente Marcos, scientists at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, analyzed the trajectory of the asteroid and revealed that it came, precisely, from the mentioned belt, having been thrown at us by Jupiter and its neighbors more coming after millions of years of taking it, give it here. Novelty may solve an old scientific mystery

It is believed that the same separation between core, mantle and crust found on planets occurred with small travelers 4.56 billion years ago, that is, the radioactive heat of the decomposition of aluminum-26 caused rocks rich in iron and nickel to sink at their core as well, while those with high rates of olivine became mantle and other lighter minerals gave rise to the crust.

In the astronomical voracious games, with several collisions, only pieces of these specimens were left, without crust – the asteroids in question -, which can confirm whether this actually happened.

Is there more?

Don’t think that these olivine specimens are so common. DeMeo found 21 of them among 36 in the belt, which is not enough to characterize the entire lost mantle: “When such objects are fragmented, it is expected that there will be a lot of mantle out there, which is not the case”.

This lack may be to blame for the inability of human technology to visualize smaller bodies, since they are easily sprayed in clashes with the strongest “cousins”. The skepticism of the scientific community, in this case, reigns. Even among the youngest, few have been spotted, which may call into question the theory of a wider population.

Francesca DeMeo, asteroid hunter at MIT.Francesca DeMeo, asteroid hunter at MIT.Source: Reproduction

Even so, if Popescu finds another mineral in the composition of the 2020 AV2, pyroxin, everything can change, since it is abundant in asteroids-mantle: “It is a very interesting, peculiar object. The first of its kind. I want to see if there will be others “.

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