A distant asteroid following Mars’ gravitational trail is being studied in more detail than ever before. The new data reveals surprising similarities that raise some interesting questions about the object’s ancient origins.
The asteroid in question, named 101429 1998 VF31, is part of a group of Trojan asteroids orbiting Mars. Trojans are celestial bodies that fall into gravitationally balanced regions of space near other planets 60 degrees in front of and behind the planet. Most of the similar asteroids we know are in orbit around Jupiter, but there are also other planets, including Mars and Earth.
In a new study by astronomers from the Arma Planetarium (AOP) in Northern Ireland, based on the X-SHOOTER spectrograph on the 8-meter telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the team obtained data that suggests this asteroid may in fact be a lost brother. our moon.
Analysis shows that 101429 shows spectral coincidence with a natural satellite of the Earth, and not with other objects of the Trojan group. “The spectrum of this particular asteroid appears to be almost an exact replica for those parts of the Moon where there are exposed bedrocks, such as the interiors of craters and mountains,” explains astrochemist Galin Borisov.
If this is true, then how did the Moon’s long-lost twin end up as a Trojan associated with Mars? Scientists have yet to get this answer. “The space between the newly formed planets was full of debris and collisions were common. Large asteroids constantly hit the moon and other planets. A fragment from such a collision could reach the orbit of Mars when the planet was still forming, ”scientists suggest.