Space Volcanoes

Metallic asteroids — giant balls of iron sailing through the cosmos — may have once harbored epic space volcanoes, new research suggests.

As these asteroids solidified from molten iron, liquid trapped at the core may have erupted outward, according to a study published Monday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The research is pretty metal, yes — but it also shines new light on the origins of the asteroids cruising through our solar system.

Two Options

The UC Santa Cruz scientists behind the discovery found two possible ways that the metallic asteroids could have formed, according to a press release.

Operating under the assumption that the asteroids originated as floating balls of molten iron, the scientists' models predict that some cooled from the inside out. But those that crystallized on the outer surface first may have then exploded as the molten iron trapped in their cores forced its way out, carving volcanic tunnels along the way.


The scientists don't expect to find much evidence of volcanic activity on asteroids that are still out there in orbit, as any volcanic craters that once existed have likely since worn away.

"It's not clear what they might look like now," planetary scientist Jacob Abrahams said in the press release.

Rather, the scientists argue that the best bet for verifying their models would be studying samples from metallic asteroids that have crashed into Earth.

READ MORE: Iron volcanoes may have erupted on metal asteroids [UC Santa Cruz newsroom via]

More on asteroids: The “Space Nation” Warns That an Asteroid Could Wipe out Humanity

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