Scientists have proved the existence of an Earth Trojan Asteroid, a small rock in the same orbit as our planet. This asteroid will follow us for many thousand years. Nature Communications published the study on Tuesday. It details this remarkable discovery.
A team of international astronomers led by the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of Barcelona confirmed 2020 XL5, which is the second Earth Trojan asteroid ever discovered. This confirmation came after more than a decade of searching.
The researchers estimate that the asteroid’s size — around 0.7 miles in diameter, which is larger than the previously-discovered Earth Trojan asteroid 2010 TK7’s 0.2-mile diameter — will keep the asteroid in the sweet spot of gravitational pull, letting it orbit the sun alongside Earth for the next 4,000 years.
Since many other planets, such as Venus, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, Venus, Jupiter and Uranus, have Trojan asteroids, scientists have known for decades about their existence.
Toni Santana Ros, the author of the publication, stated in a press release that “there have been many previous efforts to find Earth Trojans.” “All the dedicated attempts had so far failed in discovering any new member of that population.”
Why is it so hard to spot these asteroids, when they are so close? Their location is often very close to the sun, making the observation window extremely narrow. This is the time when visibility conditions are most severe due to sunlight saturating photographs and atmospheric interference.
This problem was solved by scientists using telescopes measuring 13 feet in Arizona and Cerro Pchon, Chile to capture a few images of the mysterious asteroids.
Because they are time capsules or records of the conditions that existed during the formation and evolution of the Solar System, the Earth Trojan asteroids are of great importance. Astronomers have expressed interest in sending space missions to these asteroids. NASA’s Lucy mission launched in October 2021. It will visit eight Trojan asteroids over the next 12 years.