Cosmic version of 'Peter Pan' discovered by astronomers

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London, October 13 (ANI): Astronomers have identified the cosmic version of 'Peter Pan', namely a 600 km-wide asteroid that started out on the process of becoming a planet but never grew up into the real thing.

Called '2 Pallas', it is one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System.

Now, according to a report by BBC News, the Hubble telescope has provided new insight on the space rock.

Hubble's data makes it possible to discern surface features, including what appears to be a big impact crater.

The new information is expected to help scientists better understand how planets evolve in their earliest phases.

"Pallas is a unique piece of the puzzle of how our Solar System formed," said Britney Schmidt, of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the observations.

Pallas resides some 400 million km from the Sun, in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

It was the second object discovered in the main asteroid belt (hence the name, 2 Pallas), in 1802.

Theory holds that planets grow from aggregations of the dust and rock found circling new-born stars.

Collisions between clumps of material produce progressively bigger objects.

Eventually, a few will become large enough, and hot enough, to start to undergo differentiation - a process of layering in which the densest materials move to the centre of the object to form a core.

In the case of Pallas, this process appears to have initiated, but its slightly irregular shape suggests it never quite moved to completion.

"Whether you could form a core is something we can't really determine with these observations, but Pallas is big enough and round enough that it's very possible that its interior started to separate out," Schmidt told BBC News.

"Ceres is perfectly round and so there's a really good chance that that happened. For Pallas, it may be just that this process got started but never finished," she said. (ANI)

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