How is CO ice distributed among trans-Neptunian objects and what does it indicate about their formation regions in the protoplanetary disk?

How is CO ice distributed among trans-Neptunian objects and what does it indicate about their formation regions in the protoplanetary disk?

Widespread CO2 and CO Ices in the Trans-Neptunian Population

The James Webb Space Telescope’s (JWST) ongoing exploration of the trans-Neptunian region (TNOs) is yielding exciting insights into the formation and composition of these icy bodies. TNOs are icy objects orbiting beyond the orbit of Neptune, marking the outermost reaches of our solar system. Recent observations from JWST have revealed the widespread presence of carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) ices on these distant objects.

CO2 and CO as Formation Indicators

The presence of CO2 and CO ices on TNOs provides valuable clues about their formation regions within the protoplanetary disk, the swirling mass of gas and dust from which the solar system formed. The distribution of these ices indicates that TNOs formed in distinct regions where the temperature and composition of the primordial disk varied.

Two Compositional Types

The JWST observations have identified two dominant compositional types among TNOs. Objects with abundant CO2 ice also tend to exhibit CO ice, while those with less CO2 ice have negligible CO. This suggests that the formation conditions in different regions of the protoplanetary disk influenced the type of ices that accreted onto these icy bodies.

Formation Regions

TNOs with abundant CO2 ice likely formed in colder regions of the protoplanetary disk, where CO2 was able to condense and freeze onto their surfaces. On the other hand, TNOs with less CO2 ice may have formed in warmer regions, where CO2 remained in a gaseous state and could not be incorporated into their composition.

Implications for Solar System Formation

These findings have important implications for our understanding of solar system formation. It reveals that the protoplanetary disk was not uniform in temperature and composition, and that distinct regions existed where different types of objects formed. Further study of these distant icy bodies will provide valuable insights into the processes that shaped our solar system billions of years ago.

Quotes from Scientists

“The discovery of widespread CO2 and CO ices on TNOs is a major breakthrough,” said Dr. Bethany Ehlmann, a planetary scientist involved in the research. “These ices provide a window into the conditions that existed during the formation of our solar system.”

“The variations in ice composition among TNOs suggest that they formed in different regions of the protoplanetary disk,” added Dr. Michael Brown, another member of the research team. “This discovery challenges our previous understanding of how the solar system evolved.”

Ongoing Research

The JWST continues to explore the outer solar system, unveiling new insights into the formation and evolution of TNOs. Future observations will focus on understanding the nature of CO ice and identifying the specific mechanisms responsible for its presence on these distant icy bodies.

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