Astronomers find rare kilometer-wide asteroid with unusual orbit

Astronomers find rare kilometer-wide asteroid with unusual orbit

As reported by CNET, Quanzhi Ye of Caltech, who discovered the asteroid released a statement saying: "You don't find kilometre-size asteroids very often these days". The ZTF is created to find asteroids that fall within Earth's orbit and have short observing windows, which are also known as Atiras.

Introducing 2019 LF6, an asteroid so close to the Sun that a year lasts only 151 days.

ZTF is a state-of-the-art camera at the Palomar Observatory that scans the skies every night for transient objects like exploding and flashing stars and moving asteroids.

"Thirty years ago, people started organizing methodical asteroid searches, finding larger objects first, but now that a lot of them have been found, the bigger ones are rare birds", he says. In February, Yu's team used the ZTF to discover asteroid 2019 AQ3, which, with a year lasting 165 days, was the previous record holder for shortest Atira year. This rock makes a complete orbit of the Sun in just 151.13 days, the shortest year of any known asteroid. The camera system surveys the sky extremely fast, making an ideal tool for finding asteroids.

A large asteroid belt is found between Mars and the fifth planet from The Sun, gas giant Jupiter. Ye said that the team could only search for them about 20 to 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset.

By "unique orbit", Ye is referring to this object's position relative to our solar system's orbital plane.

Ye says he hopes the Twilight program will lead to more Atira discoveries, and he looks forward to the possible selection by NASA of the Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) mission, a proposed spacecraft created to look for asteroids closer to the sun than previous surveys. NEOCam will be equipped with an infrared telescope to pick up on the glow emitted by asteroids warmed by the Sun's rays. The new mission aims to find near-earth objects so scientists can understand how asteroids were formed and how they will evolve over time as the Solar System changes.

The discovery of 2019 LF6 was announced in the Minor Planet Electronic Circular (MPEC) newsletter issued by the IAU's Minor Planet Center on June 19, 2019. Additional support comes from the Heising-Simons Foundation, and Caltech itself. NASA supports ZTF's search for near-Earth objects through the Near-Earth Object Observations program.



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