A recent study from the University of Arizona (USA) revealed a cosmic mystery: the presence of dense asteroids containing elements heavier than those found in the periodic table.
For those in a hurry:
- A University of Arizona study identified dense asteroids containing elements heavier than those listed on the periodic table;
- These celestial bodies have been called compact ultra-dense objects (CUDOs), and they challenge the conventional understanding of asteroid composition;
- The asteroid 33 Polyhymnia is distinguished by its exceptional mass density, and is classified as a CUDO with an as yet unknown composition;
- The team studied theoretical elements with higher atomic numbers than those in the current periodic table;
- The conclusion was that superheavy elements with an atomic number of about 164 could explain the densities observed on the asteroid;
- This discovery has promising implications for space exploration and asteroid mining.
These celestial objects, called compact ultra-dense objects (CUDOs), challenge the traditional understanding of asteroid formation. The study was published in European Physical Journal Plus.
The team of physicists was motivated by the observation that some asteroids exceed the mass density of osmium, the densest element in the periodic table.
Asteroid 33 Polyhymnia, in particular, has such an exceptional mass density that it has been classified as a compact, ultra-dense object whose composition is still unknown.
Scientists have studied the properties of theoretical elements with higher atomic numbers than those listed in the current periodic table.
Although osmium is the densest stable element, elements with higher atomic numbers have been synthesized in experiments.
Auganisonium, for example, with atomic number 118, is the densest element in the periodic table, but it is highly unstable and radioactive. Elements in this range tend to have a very short half-life.
By analyzing elements inside and outside the periodic table, the team concluded that superheavy elements with an atomic number of about 164 could explain the mass densities observed in asteroid 33 Polyhymnia.
This discovery, although preliminary, has particularly interesting implications for those interested in space exploration and asteroid mining.
Jan Ravelski, one of the study’s authors, said he was excited about the prospect of obtaining some of these superheavy elements within our solar system, shattering the previous idea that they could not be obtained.
This new frontier of science not only expands understanding of asteroid formation, but also sheds light on the possibility that superheavy elements exist in the cosmic backyard.
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