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Letter

Nature 464, 1322-1323 (29 April 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature09028; Received 22 September 2009; Accepted 24 February 2010

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Detection of ice and organics on an asteroidal surface

Andrew S. Rivkin1 & Joshua P. Emery2

  1. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland 20723, USA
  2. Earth and Planetary Science Department, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA

Correspondence to: Andrew S. Rivkin1 Email: andy.rivkin@jhuapl.edu.

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Recent observations, including the discovery1 in typical asteroidal orbits of objects with cometary characteristics (main-belt comets, or MBCs), have blurred the line between comets and asteroids, although so far neither ice nor organic material has been detected on the surface of an asteroid or directly proven to be an asteroidal constituent. Here we report the spectroscopic detection of water ice and organic material on the asteroid 24 Themis, a detection that has been independently confirmed2. 24 Themis belongs to the same dynamical family as three of the five known MBCs, and the presence of ice on 24 Themis is strong evidence that it also is present in the MBCs. We conclude that water ice is more common on asteroids than was previously thought and may be widespread in asteroidal interiors at much smaller heliocentric distances than was previously expected.

  1. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland 20723, USA
  2. Earth and Planetary Science Department, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA

Correspondence to: Andrew S. Rivkin1 Email: andy.rivkin@jhuapl.edu.

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