HomeScience and ResearchSpaceHow Jupiter Pushed Ceres Into the Asteroid Belt

How Jupiter Pushed Ceres Into the Asteroid Belt

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Ceres is a dwarf planet that floats between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt. It was once thought to be a planet, but astronomers later downgraded it to an asteroid.

According to a recent computer simulation, Jupiter’s gravity was responsible for ejecting Ceres into the asteroid belt between the largest planet in the solar system and the red planet.

Ceres is the largest asteroid in the belt, measuring around 1,000 kilometers in diameter and standing out among the other space rocks that are merely tens or hundreds of meters in diameter. Furthermore, the dwarf planet has chemical components that are not found in its asteroid belt “neighbors” such as ammonia.

Ceres’ strange traits prompted scientists to suspect it was an alien in the asteroid belt, and fresh data may help them figure out how the “intrusion” occurred.

Rafael Ribeiro de Sousa, a physics professor at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil, told Universe Today, “In our article, we propose a scenario to explain why Ceres is so different from neighbouring asteroids.” According to this theory, “Ceres began forming in an orbit well beyond Saturn, where ammonia was abundant. During the giant planet growth stage, it was pulled into the asteroid belt as a migrant from the outer solar system and survived for 4.5 billion years until now .”

“At least 3,600 Ceres-like objects beyond Saturn’s orbit,” according to the new findings.

“With this number of objects, our model showed that one of them could have been transported and captured in the Asteroid Belt, in an orbit very similar to Ceres’s current orbit,” said Ribeiro de Sousa.

Ceres’ presence of ammonia, a chemical not found in typical space rocks but found in comets, prompting scientists to wonder how it got into the asteroid belt if it came from a comet. The answer could be linked to gas giants, like as Jupiter in Ceres’ instance.

The gravity of the gas giants was a significant force during the formation of the solar system around 4.5 billion years ago, scattering many Ceres-like objects all over the place.

“Our simulations showed that the giant planet formation stage was highly turbulent, with huge collisions between the precursors of Uranus and Neptune, ejection of planets out of the solar system, and even invasion of the inner region by planets with masses greater than three times Earth’s mass,” explained Ribeiro de Sousa.

“In addition, the strong gravitational disturbance scattered objects similar to Ceres everywhere. Some may well have reached the region of the asteroid belt and acquired stable orbits capable of surviving other events.”

Ceres was hurled into the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars as a result of these events, according to experts, and was joined by two other minor planets, Vesta and Pallas. Hygiea, a space object in the asteroid belt, could also be a protoplanet.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

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