Scientists Solve Mystery of Magnetic Asteroids


| LAST UPDATE 08/15/2023

By Stanley Wickens
asteroid magnet mystery space
ESA/Webb via Wikimedia Commons

By now, it comes as no surprise that the biggest mysteries are often found in space. After all, despite the many ways human beings have tried to explore and discover more about space, there are several questions scientists have yet to answer. But one puzzling mystery about meteorites may have finally been solved, thanks to a recent study.

For a long time, scientists have known that meteorites are usually magnetic - a phenomenon they haven't been able to explain until now. One type of meteorite, called IVA, is actually made up of fragments of smaller asteroids. These small asteroids have magnetic fields that aren't very strong, which would lead scientists to conclude that IVA meteorites shouldn't be magnetic - yet, many of them are. So how is that possible? It all began to make sense when researchers took a closer look at the small asteroids forming these meteorites. These tiny asteroids form when parts of iron-rich rock come together over time, and begin to make up a larger asteroid. But in order for a mass like this to have a strong magnetic field, liquid iron needs to be present to produce a dynamo effect. But since this never happens with small asteroids, researchers have believed that they simply can't be magnetic. But newer evidence suggests otherwise...

asteroid space magnetic collision
NASA JPL CalTech, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Another thing about asteroids is that they're constantly at risk of collision. The impacts resulting from these collisions can create a magnetic dynamo within the asteroid, which is the missing piece to the longstanding mystery. A colliding body doesn't necessarily have to shatter the asteroid - if it's just small enough, it can result in a melted layer of material close to the surface of the asteroid. This would then lead to the cold rubble core of the asteroid to heat up, and lighter elements to move out of the core towards the surface. This causes convection of the iron in the outer layers, which in turn generates a magnetic field.

Because of this remarkable research, scientists have been able to conclude that magnetic IVA meteorites form from their collisions with other bodies that provoked this convection. This study, published by Universe Today, could lead to possible answers about the history of our solar system. Be sure to stay tuned as we find out more!

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