NASA’S WISE Mission Finds First Trojan Asteroid Sharing Earth’s Orbit

first_img 16 recommended0 commentsShareShareTweetSharePin it Pasadena’s ‘626 Day’ Aims to Celebrate City, Boost Local Economy Community News Make a comment Subscribe Astronomers studying observations taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission have discovered the first known “Trojan” asteroid orbiting the sun along with Earth. Trojans are asteroids that share an orbit with a planet near stable points in front of or behind the planet. Because they constantly lead or follow in the same orbit as the planet, they never can collide with it. In our solar system, Trojans also share orbits with Neptune, Mars and Jupiter. Two of Saturn’s moons share orbits with Trojans.Scientists had predicted Earth should have Trojans, but they have been difficult to find because they are relatively small and appear near the sun from Earth’s point of view. “These asteroids dwell mostly in the daylight, making them very hard to see,” said Martin Connors of Athabasca University in Canada, lead author of a new paper on the discovery in the July 28 issue of the journal Nature. “But we finally found one, because the object has an unusual orbit that takes it farther away from the sun than what is typical for Trojans. WISE was a game-changer, giving us a point of view difficult to have at Earth’s surface.”The WISE telescope scanned the entire sky in infrared light from January 2010 to February 2011. Connors and his team began their search for an Earth Trojan using data from NEOWISE, an addition to the WISE mission that focused in part on near-Earth objects, or NEOs, such as asteroids and comets. NEOs are bodies that pass within 28 million miles (45 million kilometers) of Earth’s path around the sun. The NEOWISE project observed more than 155,000 asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, and more than 500 NEOs, discovering 132 that were previously unknown.The team’s hunt resulted in two Trojan candidates. One called 2010 TK7 was confirmed as an Earth Trojan after follow-up observations with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The asteroid is roughly 1,000 feet (300 meters) in diameter. It has an unusual orbit that traces a complex motion near a stable point in the plane of Earth’s orbit, although the asteroid also moves above and below the plane. The object is about 50 million miles (80 million kilometers) from Earth.The asteroid’s orbit is well-defined and for at least the next 100 years, it will not come closer to Earth than 15 million miles (24 million kilometers). An animation showing the orbit is available at:http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=103550791.“It’s as though Earth is playing follow the leader,” said Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator of NEOWISE at JPL “Earth always is chasing this asteroid around.” A handful of other asteroids also have orbits similar to Earth. Such objects could make excellent candidates for future robotic or human exploration. Asteroid 2010 TK7 is not a good target because it travels too far above and below the plane of Earth’s orbit, which would require large amounts of fuel to reach it.“This observation illustrates why NASA’s NEO Observation program funded the mission enhancement to process data collected by WISE,” said Lindley Johnson, NEOWISE program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We believed there was great potential to find objects in near-Earth space that had not been seen before.”NEOWISE data on orbits from the hundreds of thousands of asteroids and comets it observed are available through the NASA-funded International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.JPL manages and operates WISE for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The principal investigator, Edward Wright, is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The mission was selected under NASA’s Explorers Program, which is managed by the agency’sGoddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah. The spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.For more WISE information visit: http://www.nasa.gov/wise Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * More Cool Stuff Community News Pasadena Will Allow Vaccinated People to Go Without Masks in Most Settings Starting on Tuesday center_img HerbeautyIs It Bad To Give Your Boyfriend An Ultimatum?HerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeauty6 Trends To Look Like A Bombshell And 6 To Forget AboutHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyBohemian Summer: How To Wear The Boho Trend RightHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyGained Back All The Weight You Lost?HerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeauty10 Sea Salt Scrubs You Can Make YourselfHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyHere’s What Experts Say Women Want In A ManHerbeautyHerbeauty Home of the Week: Unique Pasadena Home Located on Madeline Drive, Pasadena First Heatwave Expected Next Week Top of the News LATEST NEWS NASA’S WISE Mission Finds First Trojan Asteroid Sharing Earth’s Orbit In our solar system, Trojans also share orbits with Neptune, Mars and Jupiter. Two of Saturn’s moons share orbits with Trojans From STAFF REPORTS Published on Monday, August 1, 2011 | 9:14 am Business News Name (required)  Mail (required) (not be published)  Website  EVENTS & ENTERTAINMENT | FOOD & DRINK | THE ARTS | REAL ESTATE | HOME & GARDEN | WELLNESS | SOCIAL SCENE | GETAWAYS | PARENTS & KIDS faithfernandez More » ShareTweetShare on Google+Pin on PinterestSend with WhatsApp,Virtual Schools PasadenaHomes Solve Community/Gov/Pub SafetyCitizen Service CenterPASADENA EVENTS & ACTIVITIES CALENDARClick here for Movie Showtimeslast_img read more