Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Asteroid diversity points to a 'snow globe' solar system

Date:
January 29, 2014
Source:
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Summary:
Our solar system seems like a neat and orderly place, with small, rocky worlds near the sun and big, gaseous worlds farther out, all eight planets following orbital paths unchanged since they formed. However, the true history of the solar system is more riotous. Giant planets migrated in and out, tossing interplanetary flotsam and jetsam far and wide. New clues to this tumultuous past come from the asteroid belt.

In this artist's conception, Jupiter's migration through the solar system has swept asteroids out of stable orbits, sending them careening into one another. As the gas giant planets migrated, they stirred the contents of the solar system. Objects from as close to the Sun as Mercury, and as far out as Neptune, all collected in the main asteroid belt, leading to the diverse composition we see today.
Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

Our solar system seems like a neat and orderly place, with small, rocky worlds near the Sun and big, gaseous worlds farther out, all eight planets following orbital paths unchanged since they formed.

However, the true history of the solar system is more riotous. Giant planets migrated in and out, tossing interplanetary flotsam and jetsam far and wide. New clues to this tumultuous past come from the asteroid belt.

"We found that the giant planets shook up the asteroids like flakes in a snow globe," says lead author Francesca DeMeo, a Hubble postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Millions of asteroids circle the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, in a region known as the main asteroid belt. Traditionally, they were viewed as the pieces of a failed planet that was prevented from forming by the influence of Jupiter's powerful gravity. Their compositions seemed to vary methodically from drier to wetter, due to the drop in temperature as you move away from the Sun.

That traditional view changed as astronomers recognized that the current residents of the main asteroid belt weren't all there from the start. In the early history of our solar system the giant planets ran amok, migrating inward and outward substantially. Jupiter may have moved as close to the Sun as Mars is now. In the process, it swept the asteroid belt nearly clean, leaving only a tenth of one percent of its original population.

As the planets migrated, they stirred the contents of the solar system. Objects from as close to the Sun as Mercury, and as far out as Neptune, all collected in the main asteroid belt.

"The asteroid belt is a melting pot of objects arriving from diverse locations and backgrounds," explains DeMeo.

Using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, DeMeo and co-author Benoit Carry (Paris Observatory) examined the compositions of thousands of asteroids within the main belt. They found that the asteroid belt is more diverse than previously realized, especially when you look at the smaller asteroids.

This finding has interesting implications for the history of Earth. Astronomers have theorized that long-ago asteroid impacts delivered much of the water now filling Earth's oceans. If true, the stirring provided by migrating planets may have been essential to bringing those asteroids.

This raises the question of whether an Earth-like exoplanet would also require a rain of asteroids to bring water and make it habitable. If so, then Earth-like worlds might be rarer than we thought.

The paper describing these findings appears in the January 30, 2014 issue of Nature.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. F. E. DeMeo, B. Carry. Solar System evolution from compositional mapping of the asteroid belt. Nature, 2014; 505 (7485): 629 DOI: 10.1038/nature12908

Cite This Page:

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Asteroid diversity points to a 'snow globe' solar system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140129165417.htm>.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (2014, January 29). Asteroid diversity points to a 'snow globe' solar system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140129165417.htm
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Asteroid diversity points to a 'snow globe' solar system." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140129165417.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Study Says The Moon Was Deformed Early In Its History

New Study Says The Moon Was Deformed Early In Its History

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Scientists say when the moon was young, it was deformed by the Earth's gravitational pull, which gave it a lemon-like shape. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
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:

More Coverage


'Rogue' Asteroids May Be the Norm

Jan. 29, 2014 A new map developed by astronomers charts the size, composition, and location of more than 100,000 asteroids throughout the solar system, and shows that rogue asteroids are actually more common than ... read more
from the past week

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