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I Where in our solar system are asteroids that contain ammonia

  1. Nov 20, 2017 #1
    Hi! I'm doing a research project titled "Is it possible to colonise Mars?" I'm currently researching how to raise the temperature and pressure - and i've discovered to do this that re-directing asteroids towards Mars containing Ammonia would be vital.

    However, where do these asteroids that contain Ammonia come from? Are they in the asteroid belt between Mars? Or are they in the rings of Saturn or somewhere else? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 20, 2017 #2


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    Welcome to the PF.

    I'm not able to answer your main question (others will be able to), but I did a search for recent PF threads with Mars in the title, because there have been a few good ones about terraforming Mars and using other techniques. Check out the first few hits on the Search results to see if they help to give you other ideas for your project.


  4. Nov 20, 2017 #3

    stefan r

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    Sunlight evaporates ice. The tendency to do that diminishes with distance.
    Ammonia has a melting point at -77C. Space is a vacuum so molecules sublime below the melting point. An asteroid or comet loses material when it is facing the sun. Average temperatures might be lower but the asteroid still gasses off. You would get a lot more ammonia ice if you look past Jupiter.

    Here is nice temperature chart made by NASA with planets on a thermometer.

    Pluto's moon Charon has a lot of Nitrogen ice. They are a natural place to put a space elevator and rail launch. Saturn's moon Titan a thick nitrogen atmosphere.

    I would skip those and go for the Kuiper belt. Sedna has nitrogen. It has an orbital speed around 2km/s You won't need too much delta v to get a chunk dropping into the lower solar system. It would take a long time to arrive but for teraforming the wait would be trivial.
  5. Nov 22, 2017 #4
    Thankyou! In this case I'm specifically trying to collide the asteroid with
    Thankyou! However in this scenario, I'm trying to collide the asteroid with Mars rather than mine the resources from it. This way it can be used to collide with the poles of the planet and raise the temperature, simultaneously releasing the nitrogen from it.

    Therefore, Sedna is far too big to collide with Mars. Are there any other asteroids elsewhere in the solar system which contain nitrogen ice and have a radious closer to around 10km-20km which could be used? With my calculations I've worked out around 125,000,000Mt of energy would be required just to melt the North Pole, 4 asteroids colliding that are 20km in diameter would just about give energy to melt the pole. Similarly, do you know if there would be any consequences of doing this for the planet? Thanks again!
  6. Nov 22, 2017 #5

    stefan r

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    You should change the title and use the word "terraform" instead of "colonize". A colony does not need to have a planet wide atmosphere. It is actually much easier to build a dome (or tunnel etc). You can fill a lot of domes with the nitrogen and oxygen already in Mar's atmosphere.

    The goal is to mess up Mars. It there were no consequences for Mars then the terraforming project obviously failed.

    You do not need or want to bring back all of it. The stuff that you do not use can be used for reaction mass. The Delta-v needed to escape Sedna is 440 m/s which is well below what can be done with tethers. Sedna's rotational period is 10 hours so the equator is already at 170 m/s. A space elevator could fling a package toward one of the gas giants once every 10 hours. Fixing the 12° inclination is a bigger issue than escaping from the gravity.

    For every object with 1000 to 2000km diameter in the Kuiper belt (or oort cloud) there should be a million objects with 10 to 20 km. A 15km object in Sedna's orbit is not visible to our current telescopes. Sedna has a name. Wikipedia has an estimated chemical composition of the surface. Sedna has published orbital characteristics. Sedna is on a highly elliptical orbit (eccentricity 0.85) and under 12° degrees inclination. The ideal comet would be closer to 0° inclination and higher eccentricity.

    No asteroid has a fixed location in the solar system. The solar system is moving. You can group objects and say something like "it is in the asteroid belt". So take your nitrogen from a "detached object". Since you might have millions or hundreds of millions of detached objects to choose from take one that is fairly close to the ecliptic plain. The "sednoids" are a subset of the "detached objects". Sedna is the big example we have have a sednoid. "Sednoid" is a location in the solar system.
  7. Nov 22, 2017 #6
    Alright, thank you for the explanation on why Sedna would be more ideal than a random asteroid. Is it possible for you to explain how you could only bring back a part of it and what you mean by reaction mass in this situation?

    Also when you say a "package" do you mean, for example, a piece of Sedna around 15km wide? The importance of this step is not just the nitrogen but using something to provide energy too heat up the poles which is why I believe using asteroids would be beneficial, so does this method still ultimately allow that to happen?

    Sorry for all the questions aha, big thanks.
  8. Dec 2, 2017 #7
    The problem with any idea of terraforming mars is that mars doesn't have a magnetic field. Any attempt to build up a strong atmosphere would be lost as it's swept away by solar winds.
  9. Dec 2, 2017 #8

    stefan r

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    Over what time scale? Over the course of a few million years you could drop in a lot of comets. Mars lost its atmosphere over several hundred million years.

    We could compare the mass of an orbital magnet large enough to redirect solar wind and the mass of an earth like atmosphere. The magnet is very lite in comparison. If the goal is to have an earth-like ecosystem you probably need some mirrors in space too.
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