Trojan asteroid sights near Jupiter's orbit for first time in billion years

James Marshall
May 29, 2020

Apart from the launching news, the astronauts in the space agency have spotted the first known Jupiter Trojan asteroid that isn't really the run of the mill asteroid that we have used or heard before.

The object, known as 2019 LD2, has a "comet-like tail" made up of gas and dust.

The Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii's Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) has revealed that a new asteroid with a comet-like-tail has been discovered moving in the same orbit travelled by Jupiter around the sun.

The Trojan asteroid was first spotted in June 2019 and dubbed 2019 LD2.

The rock was officially designated 2019 LD2 by The Minor Planet Center. Astronomers who have kept tabs on this space rock have noted that it leaves behind a trail of gas or dust, making it seem like a comet.

But asteroids are typically far too rocky or metallic to be affected by the Sun in the same way. At the moment, it is the first of its kind to be seen with a comet-like tail.

These are commonly known as Trojan asteroids.

"ATLAS has shown that the predictions of their icy nature may well be correct", Fitzsimmons added.

This asteroid first flew by behind the Sun in the latter part of 2019 and early into 2020.

Later activity, such as tails, develops as comets. Trojan asteroids have been caught in these orbits. Planets like Earth, Neptune and Jupiter have more than one Trojan asteroid. The ATLAS caught more images of 2019 LD2 in July 2019 that made its faint comet-like tail more apparent, which was also visible in more recent observations from April this year, suggesting it was continuously active for nearly a year.

Any surface ice that could have vaporised would have likely done so a long time ago. According to the astronomers, the asteroid could have sealed within itself some ice that is now exposed due to an impact with another asteroid.

And though the asteroid discovery is harmless, it shows there many wonders of the solar system left to be uncovered.

"Even though the ATLAS system is created to search for unsafe asteroids, ATLAS sees other rare phenomena in our solar system and beyond while scanning the sky", ATLAS project co-Principal Investigator Larry Denneau, added.

ATLAS is funded by the Near-Earth Object Observations Program in NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

"It's a real bonus for ATLAS to make these kinds of discoveries".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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