In space, the rocks that made up the “Goldilocks zone” are usually relatively stable, but on Earth, those rocks have tended to break up.
Now, a team of researchers says they’ve found a huge rock floating in deep space, and it’s quite possibly the biggest ever found in the Solar System.
That’s because the rock is bigger than Earth’s Moon and much bigger than Mercury’s famous Moon Crater.
The new rock, named Erythrite, is about as big as Earth’s moon, and its density is almost 100 times that of Earth’s, said lead author Michael Pecquet, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley.
That means it’s about 10 times more dense than Earth and has an area roughly 10 times that size, he said.
The rock is part of a group called “Goldilskii,” which is made up of a collection of mostly ancient rocks that were formed by collisions between asteroids.
Those asteroids are part of what makes the Solar system so diverse, he explained.
Erystrite, in contrast, was formed during the same time as a massive collision between asteroids that sent fragments flying across the face of the Moon.
The fragments were smaller than the size of Earth, so it wasn’t until a collision in the asteroid belt in the early 19th century that it became the Goldilocks Zone.
That was around the time that a giant asteroid from the asteroid Beltyan slammed into the Moon, causing a major impact that blew the rocks apart.
The Erytrites have long been believed to be the remnants of asteroids that collided with Earth and were destroyed in a massive impact, said Pecquet, who is a member of the UCLA-Berkeley Solar System Science Center and co-author of the study.
But that was never seen before in the study because there was no evidence of that, he added.
To make the discovery, Pecquer and his colleagues analyzed the rock’s composition.
They found that the rock contains a mixture of different elements, including silicates and metals, and that some of those elements were in very different states than expected.
This was important because if they were in the right states, they could have formed the Erysts in space.
The researchers then used X-rays and spectroscopy to see how much of the elements in the rock were actually forming the Eys.
They concluded that the majority of the Erys were in relatively stable states, which means they’d formed under the right conditions.
But some of them could still break apart if the conditions were wrong.
The authors suggest that this could be a sign of life that’s waiting out there on other planets, but until we can see the rock in the lab, they’re not sure.
The team is working with a number of partners to analyze the rock.
One of them is the California Institute of Technology, which has an asteroid mining program.
“It’s really exciting because we can find these things and then study them in detail,” said co-lead author David Wills, a postdoctoral researcher.
The discovery of the huge rock could help us better understand how Earth and other planets form, and potentially the origin of life, Pechquet said.
“This is an incredibly exciting discovery.”
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Original article on LiveScience.