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There are asteroids in the solar system called compact ultra-dense objects, or CUDOs. Its inferred density far exceeds that of any known substance on Earth, leaving one wondering what it could be made of. For example, the density of asteroid 33 Polyhymenia has been determined to be 75 grams per cubic centimeter (g cm3).-3), denser than the densest stable element, osmium (element 76), with a density of 22.6 g cm3-3. Considering that there may be an error in calculating the density of 33 polyhymenia, the question of what kind of matter CUDO is made of is still a relevant question. One possible answer may be chemical elements beyond what is known on the periodic table. Because such elements have more protons and heavier neutrons (for stable elementary particles) in their nuclei, they can pack more mass into a smaller volume. The main problem with this hypothesis, of course, is that no stable element beyond bismuth (atomic number 83) has been found (i.e., no nuclear decay leading to another, lighter element has been found). The hypothesis that CUDOs are composed of stable superheavy elements that have not yet been discovered depends on the validity of another hypothesis: the stability island, which I have written about before. Based on the shell model of the nucleus, there are predictions that some elements beyond the known stable elements, for certain isotopes, will have half-lives long enough that they can be considered stable. So the researchers studied the properties of a number of these isotopes using an easy-to-use, but imprecise, method called the Thomas Fermi model. Results:
“However, elements are in the other theoretical island of nuclear stability near Z = 164, which we expect to fill mass density values between 36.0 and 68.4 g/cm33“They are plausible candidates. If a significant portion of the asteroid is made of these superheavy metals, it is plausible that the higher mass density could be close to the experimentally measured value,” the team wrote.
So it’s a possibility, but first, we have to verify that there’s an actual stability island, and that’s a whole other kettle of fish.
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