Low-albedo asteroids preserve a record of the primordial Solar System planetesimals and the conditions in which the solar nebula was active. However, the origin and evolution of these asteroids are not well constrained. Here we measured visible and near-infrared (about 0.5–4.0 μm) spectra of low-albedo asteroids in the mid-outer main belt. We show that numerous large (diameter >100 km) and dark (geometric albedo <0.09) asteroids exterior to the dwarf planet Ceres’ orbit share the same spectral features, and presumably compositions, as Ceres. We also developed a thermal evolution model that demonstrates that these Ceres-like asteroids have highly porous interiors, accreted relatively late at 1.5–3.5 Myr after the formation of calcium–aluminium-rich inclusions, and experienced maximum interior temperatures of <900 K. Ceres-like asteroids are localized in a confined heliocentric region between about 3.0 au and 3.4 au, but were probably implanted from more distant regions of the Solar System during the giant planet’s dynamical instability.
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D.T. acknowledges support by NASA’s Solar System Observations grant NNX17AJ24G. S.N.R. thanks the CNRS’ PNP and MITI programmes for their support. W.N. acknowledges support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), project number 434933764. W.N. and M.T. acknowledge support by Klaus Tschira Foundation. We thank B. Carry for providing the unpublished density values of some large dark asteroids used in this study. We also thank the NASA IRTF staff for their assistance with asteroid observations. Spextool software is written and maintained by M. Cushing at the University of Toledo, B. Vacca at SOFIA and A. Boogert at NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF), Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai’i. NASA IRTF is operated by the University of Hawai’i under contract NNH14CK55B with NASA. D.T. is a visiting astronomer at the Infrared Telescope Facility under contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which is operated by the University of Hawaii.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Supplementary Figs. 1–4 and Tables 1–6.
Supplementary Data 1
Spectrum of asteroid Pulcova. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
Supplementary Data 2
Spectrum of asteroid Palma. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
Supplementary Data 3
Spectrum of asteroid Nephele. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
Supplementary Data 4
Spectrum of asteroid Loreley. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
Supplementary Data 5
Spectrum of asteroid Germania. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
Supplementary Data 6
Spectrum of asteroid Europa. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
Supplementary Data 7
Spectrum of asteroid Diotima. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
Supplementary Data 8
Spectrum of asteroid Carlova. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
Supplementary Data 9
Spectrum of asteroid Aurora. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
Supplementary Data 10
Spectrum of asteroid Aletheia. 1st column: Wavelength (μm). 2nd column: Normalized reflectance. 3rd column: Uncertainty.
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Takir, D., Neumann, W., Raymond, S.N. et al. Late accretion of Ceres-like asteroids and their implantation into the outer main belt. Nat Astron (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-023-01898-x