Meteors from asteroid belt came from five long-gone planets

New research shows that most of the meteors in the inner part of the asteroid belt came from five or six large objects.
By Joseph Scalise | Nov 15, 2018
Researchers from the University of Florida have discovered that almost every meteorite that falls to Earth may come from roughly five or so worlds that broke apart right after our solar system came into existence, according to newfindingspublished in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Astronomers have uncovered roughly 400,000 asteroids in the belt that sits between Mars and Jupiter. Most of the meteorites that strike Earth come from the inner main part of the belt, which holds about a third of the regions total asteroids.

Not only that, butpast studies on the area revealed that many of those rocks have similar orbits and compositions. The new study elaborates on that by showing that almost all of the asteroids in the inner main belt are from one of five main asteroid "families" -- Flora, Nysa, Vesta, Polana, or Eulalia.

To do that, the team analyzed asteroids from the region that were not previously put into any asteroid families. They focused their features, including their orbits, how eccentric they were, and how tilted they were with respect to the sun's equator.

That showed roughly 85 percent of the asteroids in the inner main belt came from the five main families and the remaining 15 percent either belonged to those families as well or came from some long-lost ghost families.

"Scientists have these wonderful collections of meteorites, and they're all slightly different," saidlead author Stanley Dermott, a theoretical astronomer at the University of Florida,according toSpace.com."The big question was, 'Are these differences in the meteorites because they come from a large number of different objects, or because they come from a few objects that evolved over time?' We're saying these meteorites generally come from a small number of objects that were fairly large, hundreds of kilometers in diameter or more."

This finding is important because, not only does it provide new insight into the asteroid belt, but it also may one day help shed light on the type of dangerous asteroids that could hit Earth in the future and help officials figure out how to deflect them.. As a result, it could help officials better figure out how to deflect them.

"These large bodies whiz by the Earth, so of course we're very concerned about how many of these there are and what types of material are in them," added Dermott, according toEngadget. "If ever one of these comes towards the earth, and we want to deflect it, we need to know what its nature is."

Thefindingsare detailedin the journal Nature Astronomy.

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