Scientists from the Japanese space agency JAXA reported finding two huge, red rocks in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which should not be there. The international team led by Sunao Hasegawa said that both red rocks have a complex organic matter on their surfaces and may have originated beyond Neptune.
Planetary scientist Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute, who was not part of the research, commented that the discovery is a huge deal. The New York Times reported that astronomers believe that red rocks could hold clues on the chaotic origins of the Solar System.
They published their research titled "Discovery of Two TNO-like Bodies in the Asteroid Belt," in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on July 26.
Mysterious Red Rocks in the Asteroid Belt
In comparison to 4.5 billion years ago, when chaos reigned between the orbits of Jupiter and other large planets beyond it, the Solar System is rather stable now. The chaotic period threw rocks and ice all over the place that has now settled between Mars and Jupiter and became the asteroid belt. Most of the material in that area were inactive rocks that failed to form into a planet.
But then, JAXA astronomers discovered two bizarre, huge, red rocks in the asteroid belt that should not be there. They named the two rocks 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia, which orbit about 2.7 and 2.6 times the Earth-Sun distance.
According to the Times, 203 Pompeja appears structurally intact, but 269 Justitia is likely a fragment of a previous collision. Astronomers observed that both red rocks have stable circular orbits that must mean they have settled in the asteroid belt a long time ago.
Furthermore, astronomers also investigated the unusual color of these mysterious rocks. It turns out that they are redder than anything else seen in the asteroid belt.
They are unlike other rocks in the asteroid belt. Those in the inner Solar System tend to reflect more blue light because of devoid organic matter like carbon and methane. Meanwhile, those in the outer Solar System are red because they are abundant with organic matter that perhaps are the building blocks of life on Earth.
Despite that, 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia appear to be more special with their extremely red color - redder than any rocks in the asteroid belt.
Mysterious Red Rocks Prove Planetary Migration in Early Solar System
The worldwide team of astronomers was taken aback by the discovery of two massive red objects in the asteroid belt. However, as Futurism noted, it only validated planetary migration that occurred during the Solar System's early stages.
"In order to have these organics, you need to initially have a lot of ice at the surface," said study co-author MIT's Michaël Marsset, as quoted by Futurism. "So they must have formed in a very cold environment. Then the solar irradiation of the ice creates those complex organics."
One theory suggests that as Jupiter moved inwards for hundreds of years, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune also moved outwards in which the movements sent pieces of planets in the Solar System.
A spacecraft would likely visit 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia to confirm that theory. It might offer a glimpse of the origins of the Solar System without spending a decade flying there.
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