Study: Asteroids show signs of aging

Sep 06, 2006

U.S. space scientists say they've determined asteroids show varying signs of aging -- a vital clue to the origin of meteorites.

Takahiro Hiroi and colleagues at Brown University discovered an asteroid has patchy surfaces in different stages of aging. Since meteorites come from asteroids, the finding suggests the aging process may be the reason why most meteorites look different from most asteroids.

The discrepancy between meteorites found on Earth and the composition of asteroids, as judged from their surface appearance, has been interpreted as a possible indication asteroid surfaces become altered over time -- a process called space weathering. It is thought that process makes asteroids gradually darker and redder.

The team was able to test that idea thanks to the close observation of the 1,800-foot-wide asteroid 25143 Itokawa by the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft at the end of last year.

The researchers attribute the differences in appearance to varying amounts of very small particles of iron that are changed by space weathering since the meteorites were chipped off the asteroids long ago.

The research is described in the journal Nature.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

7 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Mapping the demise of the dinosaurs

Dec 09, 2013

About 65 million years ago, an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow sea near what is now the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The resulting firestorm and global dust cloud caused the extinction of many land ...

Asteroids' close encounters with Mars

Nov 19, 2013

For nearly as long as astronomers have been able to observe asteroids, a question has gone unanswered: Why do the surfaces of most asteroids appear redder than meteorites—the remnants of asteroids that ...

Recommended for you

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

5 hours ago

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

11 hours ago

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

Image: Rosetta's Philae lander snaps a selfie

11 hours ago

Philae is awake… and taking pictures! This image, acquired last night with the lander's CIVA (Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer) instrument, shows the left and right solar panels of ESA's well-traveled ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.