The Red Planet is now in the spotlight thanks to a discovery that intrigued scientists.
An international team of planetary scientists has spotted an asteroid trailing behind our neighbor. The space object could be old debris, dating back to the vast impacts that made the Moon and other rocky planets in our Solar System like the Earth and Mars.
What’s more curious is that the asteroid has a similar composition to the Moon’s.
Here is what you need to know.
Asteroid or Debris: New Case Emerges
The team has been examining the Trojans of Mars for quite a while to find out what they could tell us about the early period of the inner planets of our Solar System. The recent discovery involves a Trojan, a quite intriguing one.
According to scientists, those space objects are part of a category of an asteroid that follows the planets in their orbits, similar to a flock of sheep that follows a shepherd.
Trojans are also trapped within gravitational “safe heavens” 60 degrees in front of, and behind, the planet. So, what’s the deal with the recent space object spotted?
The team’s findings
The team utilized a spectrograph dubbed X-SHOOTER, mounted on the European Southern Observatory 8-m Very Large Telescope (VLT) to examine the Trojan, an asteroid dubbed 1998 VF31.
Next, the scientists realized a spectral comparison with other Solar System planets with known composition. Such a method is called taxonomy.
The team discovered that the spectrum didn’t match any particular kind of meteorite or asteroid, so further research was needed.
Finally, the scientists found out that the perfect spectral match was with the Moon.
The team thinks that one possibility is that 101429 is only an asteroid that got its lunar-like appearance due to eons of exposure to solar radiation. This phenomenon is known as space weathering.