Saturday, 20 July, 2019


Newly-Found Asteroid Orbits Sun Closer Than Mercury

ZTF Spots Asteroid with Shortest Year Boffins find asteroid with the shortest solar year of any space rock in our Solar System
Kristine Garrett | 10 July, 2019, 18:23

ZTF is a state-of-the-art camera at the Palomar Observatory that scans the skies every night for transient objects like exploding and flashing stars and moving asteroids.

Caltech researcher Quanzhi Ye says that finding kilometer-sized asteroids is rare. What they mean by "year" is the time it takes the asteroid to complete a full orbit around the sun.

"Thirty years ago, people started organizing methodical asteroid searches, finding larger objects first, but now that a lot of them have been found, the bigger ones are rare birds", he added. Ye hopes his skywatching campaign will result in more Atira discoveries and that NASA pursues future near-Earth object projects like the proposed NEOCam mission, which is created to look for asteroids closer to the sun.

At its most distant point from the Sun, 2019 LF6's orbit flings it beyond Venus' path and at its closest point, it's reeled back in within Mercury's orbit.

"Both of the large Atira asteroids that were found by ZTF orbit well outside the plane of the Solar System", said Caltech Professor Tom Prince, a member of the ZTF team. The program was developed by Ye and Wing-Huen Ip of the National Central University in Taiwan and has been responsible for discovering another Atira asteroid dubbed 2019 AQ3.

The orbital planes of both 2019 LF6 and 2019 AQ3, another Atira asteroid with a short year, are off-kilter from the plane of the solar system.

The best time to look for Atira asteroids is during the twilight hours, around 20 to 30 minutes before and after sunset, when the camera can scan the vicinity around the Sun and not be blinded by its intense glare. It was named Twilight after the time of day which is the most recommended time for looking for Atira asteroids. They may have ended up there because they got too close to Venus or Mercury and got affected by either of these planets' gravitational pull.

A large asteroid belt is found between Mars and the fifth planet from The Sun, gas giant Jupiter. NEOCam will be equipped with an infrared telescope to pick up on the glow emitted by asteroids warmed by the Sun's rays. "Like other asteroids, Atiras are leftovers from the formation of our solar system".

The discovery was published by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center.

ZTF is funded by the National Science Foundationand an worldwide collaboration of partners. ZTF data are processed and archived by IPAC.

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