There’s water on Mars, and there’s water on the Moon. And now there’s water out in the asteroid belt, too – if spectral analysis of the rock known as 24 Themis is to believed, that is [via SlashDot]:
Analyses of the sunlight reflected off the asteroid also show that organic compounds are widespread on the surface, he added, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, CH2 and CH3.
The new finding corroborates earlier observations of the same asteroid by astronomers Andrew S. Rivkin and Joshua Emery who also used the Infrared Telescope Facility. Over several years, Rivkin and Emery had found evidence of frozen water in single spots on 24 Themis but had not studied the asteroid as it made one entire rotation. Together, the two teams’ findings reveal that the asteroid’s entire surface is coated with frozen water, Campins says.
The scientists say these new findings support the theory that asteroids brought both water and organic compounds to the early Earth, helping lay the foundation for life on the planet.
Well, maybe, but it also supports another theory: the asteroid belt is actually the broken remains of Earth’s twin planet which was destroyed by Xenu in a fit of pique OMFG!!!1
The destructive rage of entirely fictional deities aside, it’s becoming clear that the necessities of life – if not life itself – are more abundant out beyond the gravity well than we thought. So maybe we should lend more credence to speculative work like that of planetary scientist Richard Greenfield Greenberg, who theorizes that not only is Europa’s ocean comprised of water, but that it may be more oxygen-rich than those of Earth, meaning there could be all sorts of weird multicellular lifeforms lurking out there waiting to be discovered.
Isn’t it high time we went out and looked?
A lobby group of scientists have urged the United Nations to invest in a system for detecting near-Earth asteroids that could collide with the planet. We’ve got a lot of existential risks on our plate right now, of which being clobbered into a prehistoric state by a lump of space rock is just one – and a fairly remote possibility, thankfully. But it’s also one that we’d need every spare moment of advance warning to deal with… Bruce Willis will need time to put on a clean vest, if nothing else. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that. [image by goldenrectangle]
That said, space rocks striking planets might have their upsides… at least on currently uninhabited planets. A paper from a Japanese university suggests that meteorites colliding with Earth may have been the source of the amino acid groups that began the chain of life. Not quite as science fictional as panspermia, but still quite a mind-bending thought.
We interrupt this blog for a weather bulletin–a space weather bulletin, that is:
INCOMING ASTEROID: A small, newly-discovered asteroid named 2008 TC3 is approaching Earth and chances are good that it will hit. Steve Chesley of JPL estimates that atmospheric entry will occur on Oct 7th at 0246 UTC over northern Sudan [ref]. Measuring only a few meters across, the space rock poses NO THREAT TO THE GROUND, but it should create a spectacular fireball, releasing about a kiloton of energy as it disintegrates and explodes in the atmosphere. Stay tuned for updates.
Keep watching the skies! (Via Space Weather).
We now return you to your regular posts.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)
If you’ve watched Deep Impact and Armageddon a hundred times and still want to know what a real asteroid impact would look like, mark January 30th 2008 on your calenders. On that date, the path of Asteroid 2007 WD5 passes perilously close to our neighbour Mars and may or may not hit it.
The NEO (near-earth object) was found in November and marked because it also passes close to Earth. Analysis of its path say there’s a 1 in 75 chance the 50m rock will impact on the red planet, causing a crater up to half a mile wide.
[via Chris Mckitterick, image by NASA]
Last week here on Futurismic there were some great comments over the future of space seen from a resource rather than an expedition point of view. I mentioned in my post my hope that asteroids may in future be a good source of precious metals such as platinum. Today I stumbled across an example of how that may be done. Aside from the cheesy music and voiceover, this video from Space.Com shows Nasa planning of how to utilise the new Orion Moon landers to travel to Asteroids passing near to Earth’s orbit. By combining this style of approach with a few unmanned surveys of the composition of the NEO (near earth object), it may be possible to start harvesting precious metals that even a few tons would greatly increase current levels.
[via chris mckitterick, image by Don Eastwood]