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Ice on 24 Themis

  1. Apr 28, 2010 #1

    Ice was discovered covering the entire surface of one of the largest asteroids in the asteroid belt. However, the most fascinating part to me is this:

    "At the asteroid’s average distance from the sun — 3.2 times Earth’s distance to the sun — frozen water on the surface would readily vaporize, noted Campins. That means the ice must be continually replenished, possibly by a reservoir of frozen water within the rock, he speculates."

    Could the asteroid have liquid water at its center which is seeping out?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2010 #2
  4. Apr 30, 2010 #3
    Obviously this is pure conjecture but considering the size of 24 Themis, wouldn't tidal forces alone be enough to create enough interior heat to sustain liquid water? (assuming it's orbit permitted this)

    If not can we assume that a majority of rocks in the asteroid belt contain both water ice AND organic compounds?
  5. Apr 30, 2010 #4
    At 3.2 AU, 24 Themis would orbit between Mars and Jupiter, i.e., millions of miles from either at closest approach, so not a lot of chance for tidal forces from these larger bodies affecting the asteroid. However, the asteroid is over one hundred miles in diameter. If it is mostly of an element with an isotope that would sink to its core and provide heat from radiation…just conjecture.
    We can assume a lot of things, but until we do a proper survey of asteroids we will not know anything with certainty. Over the weekend I was wondering if microbes might be easier to find on asteroids than under 6 miles of ice on Europa. Assumptions are so tempting!
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