New images of the asteroid Pallas recently revealed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) show that its surface is full of craters, similar to the texture of a golf ball.
Pallas, named after the Greek goddess of wisdom, was discovered in 1802. With nearly 400 kilometers in diameter, it is the third largest object in the asteroid belt, having about one seventh the size of the Moon.
Now, new research carried out by MIT scientists has revealed detailed images of this rocky body that demonstrate that its strange physiognomy is due to a series of impacts it has suffered in the past.
"Pallas' orbit involves impacts at a very high speed," explained the study's lead author, Michael Marsset, quoted in communication. “From these images, we can now say that Palla is the object with the most craters that we know of in the asteroid belt. It is like discovering a new world ”.
In all, 36 craters more than 30 kilometers in diameter have been identified, approximately one fifth the diameter of the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, whose impact on Earth dictated the end of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
These craters appear to cover at least 10% of Pallas' surface, which "suggests a violent collision history", the scientists wrote in the new article, the results of which were this week published in the specialized scientific journal Nature Astronomy.
MIT scientists suspect that Pallas 'violent past is related to his skewed orbit: while most objects in the asteroid belt move more or less along the same elliptical path around the Sun, Pallas' tilted orbit makes it pass through the belt at an angle.
For this reason, the team maintains, any collision that Pallas suffers will cause about four times more damage than collisions between two asteroids in the same orbit.