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Water ice and organic molecules have been discovered on the surface of an asteroid for the first time.

Researchers glimpsed the ice on 24 Themis, the largest member of an asteroid family located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, using the NASA Infrared Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. This frosty little rock could be the key to understanding how Earth became the blue planet.

“What we’ve found suggests that an asteroid like this one may have hit Earth and brought our planet its water,” said astronomer Humberto Campins of the University of Central Florida, the lead of one of the two separate teams that reported similar findings April 28 in Nature.

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Category: Science