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Emperor of the Internet » Asteroid Warning and Deterrance, Planetary Geology, Science News » Trojan asteroid tags along on Earth’s orbit

Trojan asteroid tags along on Earth’s orbit

Most of the asteroids in the solar system populate the belt of rocky debris between Mars and Jupiter. But planets can pull asteroids into their orbits, too. More than 4,000 Trojan asteroids have been discovered around the gas giant Jupiter, along with a few around Neptune and Mars. But no such asteroid had ever been found near Earth. That led some scientists to believe that our planet lacked an entourage. But others proposed a different explanation: Perhaps there were Trojan asteroids in Earth’s orbit around the sun, but they were simply hidden from view. The problem was this: In order for an asteroid to attain a stable position in a planet’s orbit, it must find the spot where the gravitational pull of the planet and that of the sun cancel each other out. Two of these spots, called Lagrangian points, lie along a planet’s orbit — one ahead of the planet and one behind it. Drawing straight lines between the Earth, the sun and a Lagrangian point produces a triangle whose sides are equal in length. An asteroid there would hover in the sky at a 60-degree angle from the sun. Any object that close to the sun would be difficult to see from Earth because it would be overhead mostly during broad daylight, as invisible as the stars. But Martin Connors, a space scientist at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada, had an idea.

via Trojan asteroid tags along on Earth’s orbit – Los Angeles Times.

Filed under: Asteroid Warning and Deterrance, Planetary Geology, Science News

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