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Tailless Comet Could Be Answer to Beginnings of Our Universe

First Posted: Apr 30, 2016 05:20 AM EDT
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An ancient rocky body that looks like a contemporary asteroid that has gone astray may be one of the building blocks of the creation of rocky planets.

In a paper published in Science Advances, lead author Karen Meech said that she and her colleagues came to the conclusion that the C/2014 S3 was formed in the inner Solar System as the Earth, but was ejected at an early stage.

Meech explained to Phys.org that scientists alredy knew many asteroids, but the PANSTARRS was the first one they saw that is uncooked by the sun. It was originally indentified as a weakly active comet that is just a little over twice as far from the Sun as the earth is.

The team noticed that the C/2014 S3 is unusual, as it does not have the characteristics usually seen in long-period comets, and as a result, it was dubbed the Manx commet, after a tailless cat.

However, careful study showed that the C/2014 S3 is typical of the asteroids known as the S-type, which are usually found in the inner asteroid belt. Further studies showed that it appears that the material has undergone little processing, which could mean that it has been frozen for a long time.

There are different models that are used to predict ratios of rocky to icy objects, but scientists believe that observations of 50-100 of these Manx comets are needed to study them further and distinguish them between the current models. Co-author Oliver Hainaut said, "We've found the first rocky comet, and we are looking for others. Depending how many we find, we will know whether the giant planets danced across the Solar System when they were young, or if they grew up quietly without moving much."

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