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James Webb telescope detects water on an unusual asteroid from a distance of 3.2 billion kilometers

The latest James Webb Space Telescope has opened the way for scientists to study space at a level that previously seemed simply impossible. For example, NASA employees managed to make an incredible discovery, albeit almost by pure chance, by finding full-fledged water on a relatively small space object very far from Earth. Unfortunately, in the form of crystalline formations, that is, ice, and not in liquid form, but still, this event stirred up the research world, because now experts know how to study even the most distant objects for the presence of water located on their surface.

The history of this phenomenal discovery began in October 2022, when the James Webb telescope noticed that the tiny asteroid Chariklo eclipsed the light from a distant star – experts call this “eclipse” the first for a space telescope. In the process of observing this event, scientists noticed signs of the presence of water on the surface of the asteroid, so it was decided to study it in detail, but the problem is that, by the standards of space, Chariklo is a very small body that is located at a distance of 3.2 billion kilometers from the earth. Even the power of “James Webb” is not enough to “photograph” asteroids at such a distance.

Accordingly, scientists from NASA made the unusual asteroid Chariklo (it has two gaseous rings and the body behaves more like a comet than an asteroid) as one of the participants in a special observation program – if the asteroid again eclipses any star in the process of movement, a special the program will allow you to interrupt any current telescope mission and observe only this event. True, even then, scientists admitted that the chances were too low – about 50 to 50. But the specialists were lucky – an unusual asteroid with two rings blocked a distant star, allowing it to be studied using a near-infrared spectrograph.

Thanks to this device, experts studied the sunlight that is reflected from the asteroid Hariko and its gaseous rings, analyzing the resulting spectrum. As a result, scientists were able to detect absorption bands of water ice, which is direct evidence of the presence of crystalline ice on the surface of a cosmic body. The authors of the program are sure that the appearance of ice on the asteroid indicates constant collisions with small cosmic bodies, which either reveal previously untouched material (ice) or start the crystallization process.

Source: Trash Box

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