A new study has just been published which reveals how the vast majority of meteorites and asteroids originally formed in space. It has been determined that 85 percent of the asteroids that can be found in the inner asteroid belt, which total 200,000 in number, all came from just five or six small planets that were created when our solar system was first formed. It is believed that the remaining 15 percent of the asteroids in this belt most likely come from these same planets as well.
As Phys.org reports, this understanding is crucial if Earth is to remain safe in the future from enormous meteorites and asteroids which could theoretically produce a greater force than atomic bombs if they were to smash into our planet, as the University of Florida’s Stanley Dermott asserts.
“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 If ever one of these comes towards the earth, and we want to deflect it, we need to know what its nature is.”
NASA is currently working on ways to protect Earth from threats like this, as The Independent reports, and even though it will take quite some time to build the necessary spacecraft that could move asteroids out of harm’s way, just knowing when a threat is imminent will at least give the government time to perform necessary evacuations.
In 2013, for instance, an asteroid appeared seemingly out of nowhere, and when it caused a massive explosion in Russia there was widespread damage to thousands of buildings in the city of Chelyabinsk, along with numerous injuries.
From this new study, scientists have learned that if you wish to know why an asteroid has the orbit it does, one has only to look at the size of the asteroid. This discovery shows that meteorites that have been discovered on Earth may appear different from each other because of changes that took place more than 4 billion years ago in just a few massive bodies, as Dermott explained.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually trace the origins of all asteroids in the main asteroid belt, not just those in the inner belt, to a small number of known parent bodies.”
Understanding more about these early bodies in our solar system that created asteroids may also help astronomers to better understand locations where other planets like Earth could be lurking in our solar system. However, Dermott believes it is important to first understand the different processes that shaped our planet to begin with.
The new study on the surprising origins of meteorites and asteroids has been published in Nature Astronomy.