Earths First Trojan Asteroid Discovered

July 29, 2011 by staff 

Earths First Trojan Asteroid DiscoveredEarths First Trojan Asteroid Discovered, A Canadian astronomer 20 years of search has finally been rewarded with the discovery of a Trojan asteroid called – a rock the size of several football fields is effectively mounted in tandem with Earth in its orbit around the sun. Dr. Martin Connors, who has a Canada Research Chair in Space Science at the University of Athabasca, led the team that discovered the asteroid using NASA’s orbiting telescope.

Although there are many types of asteroids orbiting the sun, most moves at its own speed. “This goes to the same speed as the Earth remains very equidistant from Earth, but is moving in our own orbit, that’s what makes it special,” Connors told CTV Canada AM.

The rock, called 2010 TK7, it is estimated that between 200 and 300 meters in diameter and is in a serious sweet spot, just ahead of the Earth – in fact locked in a gravitational balancing act between the planet and the sun.

As a result, it poses no danger to Earth, he said. Astronomers are excited Trojans because they represent one of the best chances of getting an astronaut on an asteroid – one of the objectives stated in the future of NASA, now that the shuttle program was mothballed.

Unlike other asteroids, the Trojans are stable and predictable, and relatively close to Earth. Other Trojans have been discovered around Jupiter, Neptune and Mars.

Connors said 2010 TK7 tilts, and therefore it is unlikely that a candidate for the visit of an astronaut. But its discovery makes it very likely that other Trojans also shares Earth’s orbit, which might make better candidates for a landing.

“If the U.S. economy will not collapse, possibly we have space travel in the future and is a stated goal of sending astronauts to an asteroid and this type of asteroid could be a very good to go,” he said.

A successful landing, he said, could help solve mysteries about the origin of Earth and answer questions about whether the asteroids could be used as a source of important minerals.

Because the Trojans are caught between their host planet and the sun, which are accessible only to a small window every night and morning hours. As a result, a space telescope such as wide-field Infrared Explorer NASA Survey is typically necessary to identify them.

2010 TK7 currently about 80 million miles from Earth.

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