Scientists detect water on the surface of two asteroids for the first time

Scientists detect water on the surface of two asteroids for the first time

Scientists analyzing data from observations made with the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Telescope, which has been retired by the US Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), found water molecules on the surface of the asteroids Iris and Massalia.

Iris, with a diameter of 199 kilometers, and Massalia, with a diameter of 135 kilometers, orbit about 357 million 539 thousand kilometers from the Sun, reported.

SOFIA’s Faint Object Infrared Camera (FORCAST) detected a specific wavelength of light reflection on the surface of these two asteroids, indicating the presence of water molecules.

It was pointed out in the research that water molecules were also found in asteroid samples brought to Earth before, but it was noted that this was the first discovery of water on the surface of asteroids.

Water was also discovered on the surface of the Moon in the researches conducted

The new study was based on the SOFIA data, which revealed similar traces of water on the lunar surface in one of the largest craters in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Asteroids are remnants of the planet formation process, so their composition varies depending on which region of the stellar nebula they formed in,” Anicia Arredondo, a researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in the US, said in a statement. “We are interested in finding water on asteroids because it could shed light on how water reached Earth. We found clear features of water molecules on the asteroids Iris and Massalia. We based our research on the findings of the team that detected water molecules on the Sun-facing surface of the Moon. We thought we could use SOFIA to find these spectral features on other celestial bodies.”

In the study, it was stated that one cubic meter of soil on the lunar surface contains close to 340 grams of water chemically bound with minerals, and that the water on the two asteroids is close to the amount detected on the Moon and may be bound to minerals or absorbed by silicate as on the lunar surface.

Water-bearing asteroids may also exist in orbits close to the Sun

The study, which stated that asteroids in orbits close to the Sun were previously thought to be of dry silicate type due to the evaporation of the water on them with heat, while asteroids in distant orbits were thought to be composed of icy materials, noted that after the discovery of Iris and Massalia, water may also be widely found in some silicate-based asteroids in orbits close to the Sun.

It is pointed out that asteroids are the main source of water on Earth, and understanding the distribution of water in space will help the study of possible life forms in the Solar System and beyond.

The research was published in the journal “The Planetary Science”.

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