Frozen water leaves its signature over the entire surface of the asteroid 24 Themis
FAJARDO, Puerto Rico — Space rocks may be dead as doornails but some contain ingredients that could have given life on Earth a foothold.
Planetary scientists reported October 7 that they have, for the first time, confirmed that an asteroid contains frozen water on its surface. Evidence of water-ice, along with organic compounds, on the surface of the asteroid 24 Themis supports the theory that asteroids brought both water and organic compounds to the early Earth, helping lay the foundation for life on the planet.
Humberto Campins of the University of Central Florida in Orlando and his colleagues recorded spectra of the asteroid 24 Themis over a seven-hour period, corresponding to 84 percent of the rotational period of the spinning rock. The spectra, taken with NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, revealed the consistent presence of frozen water as different parts of the asteroid’s surface came into view, Campins reported