Solar System: Fireball sheds light on Oort Cloud knowledge

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Solar System: Fireball illuminates Oort Cloud knowledge

The fireball that crossed the prairie sky on February 22, 2021, is believed to be a rock weighing about two kilograms. It disintegrated near Athabasca, north of Edmonton.

The fireball that streaked across the prairie sky in February 2021 was not a comet, but a rock. This discovery brings new information on the formation of the solar system, indicate the researchers who studied the images of its passage.

In their study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy ( in English), researchers from several universities conclude that significant rocky material is in the Oort Cloud.

The rocky materials are mostly found in the asteroid belt in the inner solar system, but according to a study co-author who studies meteor physics at Western University, Denis Vida, the rock did not come from there.

According to the study, the fireball broke up, then penetrated the atmosphere much deeper than an object would have done ice having the same trajectory. This rock, which disintegrated, fell with a speed of 62 kilometers per second.

The Oort cloud surrounds our solar system.

The speed and the trajectory suggests that it comes from the center of the Oort cloud, essentially composed of icy materials which, once out of the cloud, become comets as they approach the sun.

This fireball is the first evidence that we have rocky objects in the outer solar system, says Denis Vida.

“This fireball is unique.

— Denis Vida, Postdoctoral Fellow, Western University

As the Oort Cloud lies beyond the Kuiper Belt, it has never been observed directly. The researchers are basically basing it on what comes in from that area, mostly ice material until that fireball arrives.

According to Chris Herd , a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta, the discovery of this rock suggests that objects from the asteroid belt were dispersed into the Earth. Oort cloud after the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

It's likely that the Oort cloud began as material in the outer solar system, in Neptune's orbit, which was then blown out, says Chris Herd, co-author of the study.

The inner solar system lies between the asteroid belt and the sun . The outer solar system is located after the asteroid belt and includes, among others, the Kuiper belt.

For Denis Vida this discovery is important because it allows us to know more about the initial conditions of the formation of life. The study led by Denis Vida involved, among others, researchers from Australia, Slovakia and the United States, including NASA.

With information from Wallis Snowdon

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