Astronomers have discovered a small body orbiting the Sun at the distance of Neptune whose orbit makes it the first known member of a long-sought population of objects known as Neptune Trojans.
This small body, known as 2001 QR322, leads Neptune around its orbit in such a way as to maintain -- on average -- approximately equal distance from Neptune and the Sun. As such, it mimics the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter, which orbit the Sun in two clouds approximately 60 degrees ahead of and behind Jupiter. The first Jovian Trojan was discovered in 1906, and approximately 1,560 such objects are known today. However, until the discovery of 2001 QR322, Trojan-like objects associated with other giant planets had not been found.
2001 QR322 was discovered in the course of the Deep Ecliptic Survey, a NASA-funded survey of the outer solar system that uses the National Science Foundation's telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, AZ, and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
Astronomers from Lowell Observatory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Hawaii, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory comprise the Deep Ecliptic Survey team.
The team first detected 2001 QR322 on August 21, 2001, in deep digital images taken with the 4-meter Blanco Telescope at Cerro Tololo by Marc Buie, Robert Millis, and Lawrence Wasserman of Lowell Observatory. However, several subsequent observations, made with a variety of telescopes over the past 16 months, coupled with numerical orbit integrations of the trajectory of the asteroid, were required to prove that 2001 QR322 is indeed a Neptune Trojan. The object is estimated to be approximately 230 kilometers (140 miles) in diameter and, like Neptune, requires about 166 years to complete each circuit of its orbit.
"Neptunian Trojans were long suspected to exist and it is gratifying to finally know that they do," says team member Eugene Chiang of the University of California at Berkeley. "The orbit of 2001 QR322 is remarkably stable; projections of its trajectory into the future reveal that it can co-orbit with Neptune for at least billions of years. "It is likely that 2001 QR322 is a dynamically pristine object whose orbital eccentricity and inclination have been largely unaltered by processes that afflicted the majority of bodies in the outer solar system," said Chiang.
Deep Ecliptic Survey
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express
Another Candidate For Planet X Found Beyond Pluto
Los Angeles - Oct 07, 2002
Planetary scientists at the California Institute of Technology have found a spherical body in the outskirts of our solar system. The object has been named Quaoar (KWAH-o-ar) after the creation force of the Tongva tribe who were the original inhabitants of the Los Angeles basin, where the Caltech campus is located. The object circles the sun every 288 years, is half the size of Pluto, and is larger than all of the known objects in the asteroid belt combined.
Earth & Asteroid Play Orbital Cat And Mouse Game
Pasadena - Jan 06, 2003
The first asteroid discovered to orbit the Sun in nearly the same path as Earth will make its closest approach to our planet this month before scurrying away for 95 years.
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|