Astronomers discovered the first known Jupiter Trojan asteroid

James Marshall
May 21, 2020

A comet is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds.

Asteroids are generally considered rocky, inert, and dry, with orbits in the Solar System comparable to those of the planets.

Asteroids that behave like comets, emitting fuel or sublimating, are uncommon however not unknown, and are known as lively asteroids. Thus, the nature of 2019 LD2 remains obscure, as the object is either a recent Jovian acquisition or an old asteroid that has suffered some impact which provoked a release of ice buried under its surface. The Minor Planet Center (MPC) designated the new discovery as 2019 LD2, found near the orbit of Jupiter. And it's the first Jupiter Trojan astronomers have ever seen spewing out gas like a comet would. Now, they have confirmed the existence of a "first-of-its-kind" asteroid that shares an orbit with Jupiter, while tossing out gas like a comet, the University of Hawaii's Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) project, funded by NASA, has revealed. Follow-up observations by UH astronomer J.D. On June 10, astronomers using ATLAS noticed what appeared to be comet-like behaviour.

ATLAS has discovered more than 40 comets but what researchers find extraordinary is 2019 LD2's orbit. Those observations showed that 2019 LD2 has probably been continuously active for nearly a year. Because of its unusual orbit, astronomers are intrigued as to what processes could be driving 2019 LD2's unique outgassing.

There are thousands of asteroids in the Jupiter Trojan category, divided into two distinct groups. These are points where the mixed gravitational forces of two larger bodies (Jupiter and Saturn, in this case) develop a small area of gravitational balance.

The space rock was spotted by astronomers using the ATLAS system.

The asteroid swarm is assumed to have been pulled in by Jupiter round 4 billion years in the past whereas the planets in our photo voltaic system have been nonetheless discovering their locations.

They say that if they have been there that long then any surface ice should have escaped a long time ago.

But what if the ice is inside the asteroids?

"We now have believed for many years that Trojan asteroids ought to have giant quantities of ice beneath their surfaces, however by no means had any proof till now", stated undertaking collaborator and astronomer Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's College Belfast in Northern Eire.

'ATLAS has shown that the predictions of their icy nature may well be correct'. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.

The Jupiter Trojans are pretty hard to study, but we could learn a lot from taking a closer look at this weirdo. Earth has at least one Trojan asteroid, and Neptune has dozens.

Sadly, Spitzer was retired in January of this year. The asteroid passed behind the Sun, Although, and it was not observable from the Earth in late 2019.

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