An Asteroid Was Found By The Astronomers That Loves The Sun

ZTF Spots Asteroid with Shortest Year

LF6 is one of 20 others, collectively called Atira asteroids, that move within a cosmic hug of our planet, according to a statement from the California Institute of Technology.

This is an interior-Earth object (IEO), or Atira asteroid, having an orbit that fits entirely within Earth's path around the Sun.

"LF6 is very unusual both in orbit and in size-its unique orbit explains why such a large asteroid eluded several decades of careful searches", he said. "Like other asteroids, Atiras are leftovers from the formation of our solar system". The newfound space rock, measuring a kilometer wide, circles the sun once every 151 days. In its orbit, the asteroid swings out beyond Venus and, at times, comes closer in than Mercury, which circles the sun every 88 days.

"Thirty years in the past, individuals began organizing methodical asteroid searches, discovering bigger objects first, however now that nearly all of them have been discovered, the larger ones are uncommon birds", Tom Price of Caltech describes.

The orbit of asteroid 2019 LF6 (white), discovered by ZTF, falls entirely within the orbit of Earth (blue).

"You don't find kilometer-size asteroids very often these days", postdoctoral scholar Quanzhi Ye of Caltech said in a statement.

According to Tom Prince, a physics professor at Caltech, these two asteroids were found orbiting near the outer planes of the Solar System. That asteroid also turned out to orbit the sun outside of the solar system's plane.

Through their latest discovery, the astronomers are hoping that their Twilight program, an observing campaign for finding Atira asteroids, will be selected by NASA as part of its Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) mission.

The best time to look for Atira asteroids is during the twilight hours, around 20 to 30 minutes before and after sunset, when the camera can scan the vicinity around the Sun and not be blinded by its intense glare. They may have ended up there because they got too close to Venus or Mercury and got affected by either of these planets' gravitational pull.

ZTF scans the skies every night for transient objects, such as exploding and flashing stars and moving asteroids, and is well-suited for finding Atira asteroids, which have short observing windows.

"It is one of the near-Earth asteroid groups that we don't know much about, since their unique orbits make them hard to observe", Yu told Gizmodo.

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