The asteroid in question, known as (101429) 1998 VF31, is part of the group of trojan asteroids that share the orbit of Mars.
Trojans are objects that fall into a gravitationally equilibrium space in the vicinity of other planets, located 60 degrees ahead and behind the planet.
Most of the trojan asteroids as we know them share the orbits of Jupiter, but other planets also share them, including Mars and Earth.
What makes (101429) 1998 VF31 (hereafter ‘101429’) interesting is that of the Red Planet’s subsequent trojans (the ones that follow Mars as it orbits the Sun), 101429 appears to be only.
The rest of the group, known as Mars L5, all belong to the Eureka family, which includes 5261 Eureka – the first Mars trojan discovered – and a slew of tiny debris believed to have fallen from empty rock their mother space.
The year 101429 is different, and in a new study led by astronomers from the Armagh Observatory and the Planetarium (AOP) in Northern Ireland the researchers want to find out why.
Using a spectrophotometer called X-SHOOTER on the Very Large 8-meter Telescope of the Southern European Observatory (VLT) in Chile, the team tested how sunlight is reflected off 101429 and relatives. Its L5 is in the Eureka family. Only, it seems that 101429 and the Eureka clan are not relatives, with analysis revealed 101429 showing a spectral coincidence for a satellite much closer to home.
AOP astronomer Galin Borisov explained: “The spectrum of this particular asteroid is almost a death sign for parts of the Moon, where grounding is exposed like craters and volcanoes. “.
Although we cannot be sure why this is the case, researchers think the origin of this Mars trojan started somewhere very far from the Red Planet, with 101429 represented. for a “relic piece of the Moon’s primordial solid crust”.
If that’s true, how could the Moon’s long lost twin brother become an interconnected trojan with Mars?
The lead author of the study, Apostolos Christou, the AOP astronomer, explained: “The early solar system was very different from where we see it today.
“The space between newly formed planets is full of debris and collisions is commonplace. [planetesimals] has repeatedly crashed into the Moon and other planets. A debris from such a collision could have reached Mars’ orbit while the planet was still forming and trapped in its Troy clouds. “
It’s a compelling idea, but the researchers say it’s not the only explanation for the 101429’s past. Maybe, and perhaps more likely, instead, the trojan represents. for a piece of Mars cut off by a similar kind of incident affecting the Red Planet; or it could be just an ordinary asteroid, going through the weathering processes of solar radiation, ultimately looking like the Moon.
The team says further observations with an even more powerful spectrometer could shed more light on questions about this spatial origin, as well as a future spacecraft visit, “maybe, on the way to the Trojan, obtain spectra at Mars or Moon for direct comparison with asteroid data.
The findings are reported in Icarus.
This article was originally published by ScienceAlert. Read the original article here.