Friday 23 February 2018

Water carried on asteroids are common

Richard Gray

Frozen water on asteroids may be more common than previously thought, according to new research that will help to support the idea they might have carried the key ingredient for life to the Earth.

Water ice and organic molecules that help to form the basis of life have been discovered on a second asteroid, called 65 Cybele, by astronomers.

The finding was reported at a meeting of planetary scientists in Pasadena, where scientists said the presence of ice lends support to theories that life on Earth was seeded from out of space after being carried here on asteroids.

The researchers made a similar discovery in April this year when they discovered the first evidence of ice on an asteroid called 24 Themis.

Both this asteroid and the latest discovery are found in the asteroid belt that sits between Mars and Jupiter.

“This discovery suggests that this region of our solar system contains more water ice than anticipated,” said Professor Humberto Campins, an astronomer from University of Central Florida who led the research team.

"It supports the theory that asteroids may have hit Earth and brought our planet its water and the building blocks for life to form and evolve here.”

Professor Campins presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in Pasadena, California.

Asteroid 65 Cybele is somewhat larger than asteroid 24 Themis, with a diameter of 180 miles. Themis has a diameter of 124 miles.

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