Space researchers have discovered how water is regenerated on asteroids. Scientists now know how water molecules can be regenerated on asteroids that move through space. This breakthrough could also affect other bodies like the moon.
The new study published today in the journal Nature Astronomy shows that water can be replenished on the surface of asteroids when solar wind and meteoroids come together at very low temperatures.
The leading scientist Katarina Miljkovic from Curtin University's Space Research and Technology Center said two components of space weathering – both electrons and thermal shock – are needed to maintain the supply of water to the asteroids rather than just one as previously thought.
She said, "This complex process of regenerating surface water molecules could also be a possible mechanism to replenish the water supply to other airless bodies, such as the Moon."
"These findings may be of significant implications. "
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They continued:" We all know that the availability of water in the Solar system is an extremely important element for the habitability of space. "
As part of the NASA-funded project, a team took part of the Australian Murchison meteorite that fell to Earth 50 and simulate the weather conditions of an asteroid belt in a purpose-built machine that mimics the surface conditions of an asteroid.
The team then used simulated electrons to simulate solar winds and lasers to mimic small meteoroids that crash into the asteroids
Meteor impacts trigger the response.
Helena Bates, a graduate in meteorology, said: "The Yarkovsky effect is basically when the sun heats one side of the rotating body, so that the sun turns. The asteroid rotates as it circles the sun.
"And when a side heats up, it absorbs heat, and when it turns, this side begins to be away from the sun and radiate that heat outward.
"It basically acts like a small engine to get the asteroid into a slightly different orbit.
"And because the amount of heat that the asteroid absorbs has to do with things like composition, what the asteroids do made of what we do not know, which means that it's really very hard to predict the effect of the sun.
"Some of the asteroids that are in the asteroid belt can be so distracted that they come to Earth and cross paths. "