So the big press release today seems to be ice on Themis. I saw some headlines on Google News but didn’t think much of it, until a non scientist friend added a link to my Facebook with the comment “Like this is news? Hasn’t this been done before?”. Oops, I guess having me as a friend she’s heard all about this topic anyways when I’m in Tucson and hanging out with her and her kiddos.

That said I too was somewhat puzzled by the press release in that I thought this result was presented at the DPS meeting in Puerto Rico in October. I certainly remember something about Themis and water and saying “yup, past the ice line, not so surprising” because well. . . .ice was predicted to freeze out of the solar nebula at about 3 AU and Themis is an outer main belt asteroids so the 3 AU ice line would be about right for that object. Plus I guess I didn’t see this as a surprise as I at least one of the 4 main belt comets (Elst-Pizzaro) was a member of the Themis dynamical family. More important I think is the detection of organics, via the C-H aromatic band at 3.3 microns.

So in summary: ice and water in the outer solar system? Not really news as we see that through the main belt comets and other tracers of aqueous alteration of asteroids like the 0.7 micron phyllosilicate absorption bands (and we’ve seen those since at least 1989!). I think the organics detection would have made a far more awesome press release, but then explaining it to reporters might have made the team want to rip their hair out.