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A Retrograde Asteroid Sharing Jupiter’s Orbit

29 Mar 2017, 17:07 UTC
A Retrograde Asteroid Sharing Jupiter’s Orbit
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We recently looked at JAXA’s planned solar sail mission to Jupiter (see JAXA Sail to Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids), but I want to come back around to the Trojans this morning in light of a discovery announced today. The more we learn about the Trojans, the better. Most appear to be class D asteroids, dark with reddish hues and probably covered in tholins, organic polymers that result from the solar irradiation of organic compounds. Tholins show up all over the place in the outer system’s icy objects, adding to the view that the Jupiter Trojans were probably captured into their present orbits during the early days of Solar System formation.
Asteroid 2015 BZ509, discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in 2015, turns out to be a Trojan with a difference. Revealed in the current issue of Nature by discoverers Paul Wiegert (Western University, London), Martin Connors (Athabasca University, CA) and Christian Veillet (Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, Tucson), the object is a Trojan moving in a retrograde orbit.
We think of Trojans as moving in the same direction as Jupiter, though offset from the giant planet by 60° ahead or behind (at the L4 or L5 ...

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