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PARIS: An asteroid ejected from our infant Solar System found refuge billions of kilometers away, beyond the orbit of Neptune, where it has now been spotted, astronomers reported on Wednesday.
The curious loner is the first carbon-rich asteroid ever observed in the far-flung region called the Kuiper belt, which is occupied with frozen objects, a team reported in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Its composition explains how the asteroid must have been formed in the inner Solar System, likely in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, before migrating to its outer reaches, said the team.
This makes it “a relic of the primordial Solar System”, they stated.
Theoretical models of our early Solar System describe a tempestuous time with gas giant planets on the rampage, ejecting small rocky bodies from its the system’s center to far-flung orbits.
Such models suggest the Kuiper Belt should comprise a small number of rocky bodies, perhaps also carbon-rich asteroids.
The asteroid was spotted partly because it reflects light differently than other objects in the Kuiper Belt, which are icy while asteroids are rocky.