More water ice on an asteroid discovered, this time on 65 Cybele

Friday, October 08, 2010

Today brings another exciting discovery of the presence of water ice on a fairly sizable asteroid in between Mars and Jupiter, this time on an asteroid called 65 Cybele that is quite similar to the last one announced, 24 Themis.

When 24 Themis was first discovered I did a quick comparison of it with Ceres re: its suitability for human colonization, since they both have water and are in a similar location. The preliminary conclusion was that 24 Themis is probably a somewhat easier target for colonization particularly given its lower inclination and mass (escape velocity), in spite of being somewhat farther out. 65 Cybele also has a nice low inclination, orbiting at almost the same orbital plane as all the major planets.

Besides that there isn't much different: diameter of 270 km compared to 200 km for 24 Themis, density is similar...the only big difference is that 65 Cybele has a day of just four hours in length, which is both a plus and a minus. The plus side is that with a night of just two hours any probes sent there can be made with some pretty tiny batteries given that there are also no weather patterns to worry about either as you have to on Mars, but then again an eight or nine-hour day is also quite short, and a bit easier for humans on the surface to deal with. Two days awake, one day asleep is an easy schedule to remember, and makes it quite easy to keep shifts too.

Personally I don't see any of these asteroids presenting a more interesting target for colonization than Ceres in spite of some small advantages, simply because Ceres is a (dwarf) planet in its own right and we will soon have our first images of it from close up, turning it from a distant and kind of fuzzy target of observation into something real in our minds. Where these asteroids really help though is in showing the Asteroid Belt to be a much more interesting destination than many had previously assumed, and Ceres just happens to be the most interesting body found there.

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