Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Floating Pile Of Rubble A Pristine Record Of Solar System's History

Date:
June 2, 2006
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
A small, near-Earth asteroid named Itokawa is just a pile of floating rubble, probably created from the breakup of an ancient planet, according to a University of Michigan researcher who was part of the Japanese space mission Hayabusa.

A global view of the Asteroid Itokawa, with white box showing region where the Hayabusa spacecraft landed to collect samples.
Credit: Photo courtesy Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science

A small, near-Earth asteroid named Itokawa is just a pile of floating rubble, probably created from the breakup of an ancient planet, according to a University of Michigan researcher was part of the Japanese space mission Hayabusa.

The finding suggests that asteroids created from rubble would be pristine records of early planet formation.

Daniel Scheeres, U-M associate professor of aerospace engineering, was part of the team that determined the asteroid's mass, surface environment, and gravitational pull and helped interpret the images that were taken of the asteroid from the spacecraft. Some of the findings will be discussed in a special issue of the journal Science on June 2. The mission is led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The Hayabusa space probe arrived at asteroid Itokawa last fall and orbited for three months. During that time it descended twice to the surface of the asteroid, which is named for the father of Japanese rocketry, to collect samples. In 2010 the probe will return to Earth and eject a sample canister that will reenter the atmosphere and land in central Australia. Researchers hope this will be the first asteroid sample brought back to Earth.

Scheeres said that the confirmation of Itokawa's makeup as rubble rather than a single rock has large implications for theories of how asteroids evolved, and will lead to a better understanding of the early solar system. Asteroids are thought to be the remnants of material that formed the inner planets, which include Earth, and could bear the record of events in the early stages of planet formation. It is a significant finding that Itokawa is a pile of rocks ranging in size from tiny sand grains all the way up to boulders 50 meters wide, because it verifies a number of theories about the makeup and history of asteroids.

The existence of very large boulders and pillars suggests that an earlier "parent" asteroid was shattered by a collision and then re-formed into a rubble pile, the researchers conclude in the paper.

It's likely that most asteroids have a similar past, Scheeres said. "Analysis of the asteroid samples will give us a snapshot of the early solar system, and provide valuable clues on how the planets were formed."

Also, knowing if an asteroid is a single, big rock or a pile of rubble will have a major influence on how to nudge it off course, Scheeres said, should its orbit be aimed at Earth. An asteroid collision with Earth, while unlikely, could have disastrous consequences. It's widely thought that an asteroid collision caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, so some have discussed ways to demolish or steer an approaching asteroid, should we see one coming.

Another striking finding, Scheeres said, is that regions of Itokawa's surface are smooth, "almost like a sea of desert sand" and others are very rugged. This indicates that the surfaces of asteroids are, in some sense, active, with material being moved from one region to another. Gravity holds the mass of rubble together.

"These are the first such detailed observations of an asteroid from this close," Scheeres said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Floating Pile Of Rubble A Pristine Record Of Solar System's History." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060602073338.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2006, June 2). Floating Pile Of Rubble A Pristine Record Of Solar System's History. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060602073338.htm
University of Michigan. "Floating Pile Of Rubble A Pristine Record Of Solar System's History." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060602073338.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins