April 17, 2024

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Turns out a crazy space rock that looks like a snowman actually contains ice

Turns out a crazy space rock that looks like a snowman actually contains ice

Ice bombs. This is how scientists now describe icy space rocks in the Kuiper Belt. However, recent research now shows that some “ice bombs” likely contain valuable information.

Kuiper Belt Object 486958 Arrokoth isn't just a space rock; The object consists of two unequal “discs” connected to each other, which makes the object resemble a primitive snowman, scientists say. This comparison now appears to go much further than previously thought. Researchers recently discovered that the Snowman actually contains ice. This ice is very special because it probably comes from the era when space rocks formed, billions of years ago. As a result, the Iceman is suddenly turning into a goldmine for science: the ice found in these space rocks is mostly ice made of materials that evaporate quickly. Scientist Sam Birch contributed to the research. He says: “Many scientists were convinced that this type of ice had ceased to exist for a long time. We will come back to that now; “We are confident they can still be found.” The research has been published in the journal Icarus.

For research, Birch's team looked to Arrokoth, an object in the Kuiper Belt. This object was seen up close for the first time when a space probe new Horizons It passed quickly. It has been determined that the space rock does indeed appear to have some sort of spongy structure, as is often the case with these types of objects. However, no carbon dioxide has been detected outside, which scientists say is quite remarkable. Ultimately, this turned out to be due to a domino effect occurring in the space rock itself. To properly understand the interpretation of this, it is first important to point out that “ice” does not just mean “water ice.” There are many other substances that turn into a type of ice when they get very cold, such as carbon monoxide (CO). However, the boiling point of this gas is -191.47°C, which in practice means that the carbon dioxide ice will immediately evaporate into gas as it becomes warmer – a process also called “sublimation”.

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Now Birch's explanation of the cause of the domino effect: “We basically discovered that it's so cold inside Arrokoth that the existing carbon dioxide ice can only sublimate when the already cold carbon dioxide gas is absorbed by the spongy structure first. However, there's a problem here: The existing gas can only disappear when more ice sublimates. This creates a domino effect: it becomes colder in Arrokoth, causing less ice to sublimate. Because less ice is blown away, the cold gas present cannot escape as well, which It makes it colder on Arrokoth. Eventually it gets so cold that the whole process stops. The result is an object filled with gas that is difficult to escape from. That's why these objects are now described as “ice bombs.” As they get closer to the sun, the gas inside the object can Being suddenly exposed to pressure, causing it to explode violently.

Scientific treasures
The study results are of particular interest because the carbon dioxide (and gas) ice at Arrokoth has been self-sustaining for billions of years. “Our research has shown that these primordial types of ice could be trapped in belt-belt bodies,” Burcht explains. “It is therefore quite possible that many primordial materials (from billions of years ago, ed.) will eventually be trapped in bodies beyond our solar system.”

Fellow scientist and team member Orkan Umurhan concludes: “Through this research, we have fixed a flaw in the physical model that scientists often use for ancient and cold objects. As a result, this research could ultimately change the theories surrounding comet formation. Not only that; it is possible Also, scientists now think differently about what exactly happens in such space rocks.

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