Scientists and even regular people hope to go to Mars for centuries, but there might be another destination just as exciting right under the Red Planet’s trail. Thanks to an international team of scientists led by astronomers at AOP, the asteroid known as 101429 from the orbit of Mars was discovered to have a very similar composition to the one of our Moon.
One theory is that the asteroid is an ancient piece of debris that’s dating back to impacts that formed the Moon and rocky planets from our solar system like Mars and even the Earth.
Does the asteroid belong to the Moon?
This is another worth-mentioning theory, and we should definitely check out what Dr. Apostolos Christou, AOP astronomer and lead author of the new study paper, has to say:
“The early solar system was very different from the place we see today. The space between the newly-formed planets was full of debris and collisions were commonplace. Large asteroids – we call these planetesimals – were constantly hitting the Moon and the other planets. A shard from such a collision could have reached the orbit of Mars when the planet was still forming and was trapped in its Trojan clouds.”
Another possible explanation is that the object belongs to Mars itself. The shape of the 101429 spectrum reveals that it’s rich in pyroxene, which is a mineral found in the outer layer of planet-sized bodies. Mars was pummeled by impacts early in its history.
Although there’s still a lot more to learn about the asteroid, its related cosmic objects are receiving plenty of attention from astronomers as well. The upcoming Artemis mission of NASA will send people to the Moon by 2024, and Mars will be the next destination if everything goes as planned.
The research was published in the journal of Icarus.