Asteroid (21) Lutetia as a remnant of Earth's precursor planetesimals

P. Vernazza, P. Lamy, O. Groussin, T. Hiroi, L. Jorda, P. L. King, M. R.M. Izawa, F. Marchis, M. Birlan, R. Brunetto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Isotopic and chemical compositions of meteorites, coupled with dynamical simulations, suggest that the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter contains objects formed in situ as well as a population of interlopers. These interlopers are predicted to include the building blocks of the terrestrial planets as well as objects that formed beyond Neptune (Bottke et al. 2006, Levison et al. 2009, Walsh et al. 2011). Here we report that the main belt asteroid (21) Lutetia - encountered by the Rosetta spacecraft in July 2010 - has spectral (from 0.3 to 25 μm) and physical (albedo, density) properties quantitatively similar to the class of meteorites known as enstatite chondrites. The chemical and isotopic compositions of these chondrites indicate that they were an important component of the formation of Earth and other terrestrial planets. This meteoritic association implies that Lutetia is a member of a small population of planetesimals that formed in the terrestrial planet region and that has been scattered in the main belt by emerging protoplanets (Bottke et al. 2006) and/or by the migration of Jupiter (Walsh et al. 2011) early in its history. Lutetia, along with a few other main-belt asteroids, may contains part of the long-sought precursor material (or closely related materials) from which the terrestrial planets accreted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)650-659
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Asteroids, Composition
  • Asteroids, Surfaces
  • Origin, Solar System

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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