Scientists Offer Answer to Asteroid's Weird Spinning Top


| LAST UPDATE 03/27/2022

By Hayden Katz
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It seems scientists have finally discovered the origin of the Asteroid Ryugu. The spinning diamond shape object may be the outcome of a dead comet. Here's what they have theorized.

Back in 2014, Japan's Hayabusa2 mission was launched. After engaging with Asteroid Ryugu in 2018, the spacecraft stayed till 2020 to examine the 0.5-mile-wide rocky remnants. The information they gathered helped give some insight into where the spinning asteroid may have come from. It's been suggested that a former comet that died lost all of its ice, and what's known now as Ryugu was formed after being squeezed together by its own gravity. But it was not just one giant rock - it was created out of many smaller ones. The asteroid could have an odd top shape because it was formed through rapid rotation and because it's made out of a lot of organic matter.

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In the past, scientists believed the asteroid was made through a collision between two bigger asteroids. But the new theory that suggests Asteroid Ryugu has a bountiful amount of organic matter opposes the original theory. This is because carbon matter - which is chemical compounds filled with carbon-hydrogen bonds - is only seen in comets, not asteroids. Comets are typically found on the outer parts of the solar system. This area is much colder than the inner parts.

Comets are born when clouds of organic matter combine with rocks and ice. But they don't live forever, eventually, the heat from the sun melts the comets away, into the inner parts of the solar system. The ice separates itself from the comet and thus creates an odd-spinning shaped rock: Asteroid Ryugu. It is the remains of a dead comet after the ice melted away. An associate professor of material science at Nagoya City University, Hitoshi Miura, explained, the vaporizing of the ice led to, "the nucleus of the comet to lose mass and shrink, which increases its speed of rotation." The high-speed spinning might have allowed the dead comet's heart, "the rotational speed required for the formation of a spinning-top shape." More research on this theory needs to be done. Currently, another spacecraft, NASA's OSIRIS-REx, is investigating a different diamond-shaped asteroid, Bennu. Stay tuned.

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