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Scientists discover 19 interstellar asteroids hiding in plain sight

The newly discovered asteroids are believed to have been present almost since the birth of our solar system, 4.5 billion years ago in a star cluster, where each sun had its own asteroids and planets.

Apr 24, 2020 16:36 IST
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The first known permanent population of asteroids have been discovered in the new study. The asteroids have been originating from outside our solar system.

It is believed that the asteroids have been captured from other stars billion of years ago. They have been orbiting our sun and hiding in plain sight. The study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The newly discovered asteroids are believed to have been present almost since the birth of our solar system, 4.5 billion years ago in a star cluster, where each sun had its own asteroids and planets.

The asteroid known as ‘Oumuamua’, the first interstellar visitor hit the headlines in 2017, however it was just passing through.

Discovery of Interstellar Asteroids:

The lead author of the study, Dr. Fathi Namouni explained that the close proximity of the stars meant that in those early days they felt each other’s gravity much more strongly than they do today. It enabled the asteroid to be pulled from the one-star system to another.

In the new work, Dr. Namouni and co-author Dr. Maria Helena Morais ran numerical calculations with the purpose of turning back the clock to the earliest days of the solar system. It produced a snapshot which allowed them to see where the asteroids were particularly located.

During the time of the snapshot, the asteroids were orbiting the sun in a distant region that was beyond the reach of the original solar system disc and was also moving perpendicular to the orbital plane shared by other asteroids and the planets.

These two latest observations indicated that the asteroid group must have been captured from the interstellar medium during planet formation and did not originally belong to our solar system.

Interstellar Asteroids and Native Asteroids:

Being able to tell the difference between an interstellar asteroid and the native asteroid that is born in our solar system is something that has been desired for long by the astronomers.

19 asteroids of interstellar origin have been identified by scientists. The discovered asteroids are currently orbiting as part of the asteroid’s group known as Centaurs. It roams in between the giant planets of the solar system.

Result of the discovery:

The discovery of interstellar origin asteroids will help in understanding the chemical and physical similarities and differences between the solar system born asteroids and interstellar asteroids.

The newly discovered population of asteroids will give clues regarding how interstellar asteroid capture occurred, the sun’s early birth cluster, and the role of interstellar matter in chemically enriching the solar system and shaping its evolution.

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