Asteroids are the remnants of the materials left after the formation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. They are small planetary bodies sometimes referred to as minor planets. Most of them can be found orbiting the sun between the orbit lines of Jupiter and Mars within the main asteroid belt. They range from different sizes from asteroids equivalent to the size of a house to one equal to the whole city itself.
Asteroid 101955 Bennu
Asteroid 16 Psyche
Types of Asteroids
Asteroids have been subdivided into different categories based on their composition as observed from ground based optical telescopes and space based optical telescopes-
- C-Type Asteroids = These asteroids are most commonly detected as observed from different telescopes. The C-Type or chondrite type telescopes consist of clay and silicate rocks. They are amongst the most ancient relics of the solar system and therefore scientists believe that they may harbor answers to the possibility of life on other planets.
- S-Type Asteroids = These S-Types or stony asteroids are made up of silicate materials and nickel-iron.
- M-Type Asteroids = These asteroids are metallic in nature and the compositional density of metal present in them depends on the orbital distance between the asteroid and the sun. Asteroids which orbit closer to the sun experience higher temperatures causing their iron to melt and making a layer of basaltic lava over them.
Possibility Of Life
Since asteroids are 4.5 Billion years ago, they contain compounds which were present in the young solar system. Therefore, they may hold the key to the answer as to how life developed on Earth and were they responsible for bringing life to Earth?
It has been found that a special class of organisms has been found to survive in the most extreme environments of space, like the vacuum of space and hottest geysers of the Earth. Therefore, it may be possible that life existed in the asteroids in the ancient solar system and when they collided with Earth, life could have begun from Earth. This theory is known as Panspermia.
Therefore, a number of asteroid missions have been planned till now which aim to study the asteroids and aim to get answers about the early solar system including the possibility of life in other planets also. Some of them are –
- OSIRIS-REx – Sample Return Mission to Asteroid Bennu (2016)
- Hayabusa 2 – JAXA Sample Return Mission to Asteroid 1999 JU3 (2014)
- PROCYON – JAXA Small Satellite Asteroid Flyby Mission (2014)
- Dawn – NASA Orbiter of Asteroids Ceres and Vesta (2007)
With reference from-
He is a student currently pursuing B.Sc. Mathematics honors from SGTB Khalsa College, Delhi University. He aims at developing multiple skills by taking up exciting projects and wants to a professor in Mathematics.
Shweta, Team SciComm