The discovery, if correct, would offer evidence of planetary migration at the start of the solar system, particularly in support of an idea called the Nice model, with Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all moving outward. , and Jupiter slightly inward, over a few hundred million years. . This would have disrupted the organic matter-laden asteroids remaining from the formation of the planets, sending them spinning around the solar system.
“This is an exciting discovery with implications for the origins of life,” said Dr Öberg.
Most of these objects remaining today are known as Transneptunian objects and orbit the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune. Many are red in color, like Arrokoth, the rock that NASA’s New Horizons mission snapped up in 2019. 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia both seem to match them.
“People have been talking about a fraction of asteroids coming from the Kuiper Belt for quite some time now,” said Josh Emery, a planetary scientist at Northern Arizona University who was not involved in the article. He said the research “definitely takes a step” toward finding evidence to support this hypothesis.
Not everyone is convinced yet. Dr Levison, who was also not involved in the article, says the objects should become less red as they approach the sun. Even the asteroids captured in Jupiter’s orbit, known as Trojans, which could be Transneptunian objects, are not so red. “It appears to be incompatible with our models,” said Dr Levison, who heads NASA’s Lucy mission, which is slated to launch in October to study Jupiter’s Trojans.
Dr Marsset agrees that it is not clear why they would be so red, but that may have been related to the time it took for them to establish themselves in the asteroid belt. Some Trojans may also be red as well, but have not yet been found.
To really confirm the origin of 203 Pompeja and 269 Justitia, a spaceship would probably need to visit them. Such a mission could potentially offer glimpses of the Outer Solar System, but without spending a decade or more to fly there.
“You could fly over one of these weird asteroids and a more typical asteroid for comparison,” Dr Emery said. “It would be a really compelling spaceship mission.”