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Strange object found near Jupiter’s orbit

Astronomers have discovered a “first-of-its-kind” object near Jupiter’s orbit, which appears to be a cross between an asteroid and a comet.These are known as active asteroids and initially appear to be asteroids but later develop activity, such as tails, that are features of comets.The Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii has revealed that…

Astronomers have discovered a “first-of-its-kind” object near Jupiter’s orbit, which appears to be a cross between an asteroid and a comet.

These are known as active asteroids and initially appear to be asteroids but later develop activity, such as tails, that are features of comets.

The Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii 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.

These are usually called Trojan asteroids but it is the first one of its kind to be seen with a comet-like-tail.

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

“Later, in July 2019, new ATLAS images caught 2019 LD2 again – now truly looking like a comet, with a faint tail made of dust or gas,” the University of Hawaii explained in a statement.

“The asteroid passed behind the Sun and was not observable from the Earth in late 2019 and early 2020, but upon its reappearance in the night sky in April of 2020, routine ATLAS observations confirmed that it still looks like a comet. These observations showed that 2019 LD2 has probably been continuously active for almost a year.”

It is rare to find active asteroids but the discovery of an active Jupiter Trojan asteroid is “extraordinary”, according to the university.

It was discovered using the university’s NASA funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), which was developed to search space for asteroids that may pose threats to Earth.

“Even though the ATLAS system is designed to search for dangerous asteroids, ATLAS sees other rare phenomena in our solar system and beyond while scanning the sky,” said ATLAS project co-Principal Investigator Larry Denneau.

“It’s a real bonus for ATLAS to make these kinds of discoveries.”

It is believed that the majority of Jupiter Trojan asteroids were swept up in the orbit about four billion years ago.

This makes the discovery of this type of asteroid in Jupiter’s orbit so strange because due to their extreme age any material like ice should have long since disappeared from the surface of the asteroid, leaving them unable to have tails like comets.

“We have believed for decades that Trojan asteroids should have large amounts of ice beneath their surfaces, but never had any evidence until now. ATLAS has shown that the predictions of their icy nature may well be correct,” said Alan Fitzsimmons.

The University of Hawaii said it could be possible this asteroid was only captured recently from a more distant orbit where surface ice could still survive.

It is also possible it could have suffered a landslide or an impact from another asteroid, exposing ice that used to be buried under layers of protective rock.

New observations to find out are being acquired and evaluated,” the university said.

“What’s certain is that the Universe is full of surprises – and surveys to guard the Earth from dangerous asteroids often make unexpected discoveries of harmless but fascinating objects that can reveal more about our Solar System’s history.”

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