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An asteroid's offspring.

An asteroid's offspring

Three classes of meteorites, all made of basalt but differing in other mineralogical details, may come from three asteroids that originally formed a single large asteroid. The three meteorite types -- the eucrites, howardites and diogenites -- came from an asteroid big enough for its surface rock to melt, possibly from the heat of radioactive elements inside it, concludes a team headed by Dale P. Cruikshank of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., in the January ICARUS.

The team suggests that a "parent" asteroid shattered in a collision with another such chunk, forming three smaller asteroids now known as 3551, 3908 and 4055, whose orbits carry them near Earth. Cruikshank's group found the similarity between the meteorite classes and the three asteroids by comparing laboratory studies of the meteorites with infrared spectral measurements and other observations of the asteroids, made with NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
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Title Annotation:meteorites
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 26, 1991
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