Astronomers believe asteroids might be remnants of destroyed worlds

A majority of the millions of bodies in the inner asteroid belt may be shrapnel from planetesimals.
By Karen Saltos | Jul 04, 2018
Scientists thought asteroids were leftovers of planet formation. The also used to believe they were chunks of material that never made it to planet size.

According to a study published on July 2, 2018 in the journal Nature Astronomy, the asteroids were once pieces of worlds too. A majority of the half-million bodies in the inner asteroid belt may be shrapnel from planetesimals, five parent bodies, scientists say.

The lost world's tangled orbits doomed them to collide and produce fragments that also collided. The collisions produced even more fragments in a cataclysmic cascade that has been occurring for more than 4 billion years.

The study's lead author is astronomer Stanley Dermott of the University of Florida. He did not set out to probe a mystery of solar system formation. He and his team were looking at data on the dynamics of bodies in the inner asteroid belt.

When Dermott began to look through a database of near-Earth objects, he noticed something odd about many large asteroids. Their orbits were inclined relative to the solar system's plane.

There is an important implication of the idea that asteroids are fragments of larger bodies because it means asteroids are big, says David Nesvorny, a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute.



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