Study: Asteroids show signs of aging

September 6, 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: Rare meteorite recovery in Botswana can help reveal secrets of outer space

Related Stories

Twelfth impact structure discovered in Central Finland

June 27, 2018

A Finnish-Estonian scientific collaboration by Geological Survey of Finland, University of Tartu, and University of Helsinki has led to a discovery of ancient meteorite impact crater in Central Finland. The crater has a diameter ...

What it takes to discover small rocks in space

June 7, 2018

Once every month, on average, somewhere on Earth a fireball appears out of nowhere and for mere seconds, casts a blinding flash across the sky before it blows up in a thunderous explosion. It happened last Saturday over southern ...

Recommended for you

Jupiter's moon count reaches 79, including tiny 'oddball'

July 17, 2018

Twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter have been found—11 "normal" outer moons, and one that they're calling an "oddball." This brings Jupiter's total number of known moons to a whopping 79—the most of any planet in our Solar ...

Astronomers find a famous exoplanet's doppelgänger

July 17, 2018

When it comes to extrasolar planets, appearances can be deceiving. Astronomers have imaged a new planet, and it appears nearly identical to one of the best studied gas-giant planets. But this doppelgänger differs in one ...

Dawn mission to gather more data in home stretch

July 17, 2018

As NASA's Dawn spacecraft prepares to wrap up its groundbreaking 11-year mission, which has included two successful extended missions at Ceres, it will continue to explore—collecting images and other data.

Brown dwarf detected in the CoRoT-20 system

July 16, 2018

An international group of astronomers has discovered a new substellar object in the planetary system CoRoT-20. The newly identified object was classified as a brown dwarf due to its mass, which is greater than that of the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.