Ices of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide found in space

By Oliver Townsend May 29, 2024
Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide ices discovered in outer Solar System.jpegOrginal image from:

Exploring the outer reaches of the Solar System has revealed exciting discoveries of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide ices by researchers. These ices were detected on 59 trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) and Centaurs, shedding light on the chemical composition of these celestial bodies. This groundbreaking research marks the first time that such chemicals have been found at such vast distances from the Sun, providing valuable insights into the formation of our Solar System billions of years ago.

Chemical Composition of the Outer Solar System

The detection of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide ices on TNOs and Centaurs has significant implications for our understanding of the early Solar System. The presence of carbon dioxide ice suggests that it was abundant in the outer regions of the protoplanetary disc during the formation of the Solar System. Additionally, the discovery of carbon monoxide ice raises questions about its origin and formation, hinting at intriguing processes that have shaped these distant objects.

Insights from the Research

The researchers identified carbon dioxide ice on 56 TNOs and carbon monoxide ice on 28 TNOs out of the 59 targets studied. Surprisingly, carbon dioxide ice was prevalent across different dynamical classes and sizes of objects, while carbon monoxide ice was predominantly found in objects with an abundance of carbon dioxide. These findings provide valuable clues about the composition and evolution of TNOs and Centaurs over billions of years.

Understanding the Origins of Carbon Ices

One of the key questions raised by this research is the origin of carbon monoxide ice, especially considering its volatile nature even in the cold environments of TNOs. Previous observations of carbon monoxide ice on Pluto by the New Horizons probe sparked curiosity about its presence in other distant objects. The researchers speculate that these ices could be ancient remnants from the early Solar System or formed more recently through the irradiation of carbon-bearing materials.

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