A comet has been spotted among Jupiter's ancient asteroids for the very first time
NASA, ESA, and B. Bolin (Caltech)
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (
NASA) Hubble telescopehas caught a Centaur cometentering the orbit around Jupiteron camera for the very first time.
- The images show that it is currently amidst Jupiter’s ancient
- Scientists who made the discovery speculate that the
comethad to have entered Jupiter’s orbit at just the right trajectory in order for this to happen.
AdvertisementA centaur flying into a bunch of trojans sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but that is exactly what is happening in the orbit of our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter.
For the very first time, a Centaur comet has been caught on camera amidst Jupiter’s ancient asteroids called Trojans using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) legendary Hubble Telescope.
Centaurs are small icy rocks that orbit the Sun between Jupiter and
Trojans, on the other hand, are asteroids that only orbit Jupiter. There are over a million of them larger than 1 kilometer in diameter — that’s almost the same number of asteroids in the asteroid belt that divides the solar system’s inner four planets from the outer four.
"The cool thing is that you are actually catching Jupiter flinging this object around and changing its orbital behavior and bringing it into the inner system," said team member Carey Lisse of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in a statement.
The solar system is made up of two parts, the inner system and the outer system, divided by the asteroid belt. The inner system consists of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars while the outer system is made up of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
How did this happen?
Honestly, even NASA does not know. Scientists who made the discovery speculate that the comet had to have entered Jupiter’s orbit at just the right trajectory to not burn up, and not just fly by either.
"Jupiter controls what is going on with comets once they get into the inner system by altering their orbits," explained Lisse.
One possible explanation is that the Centaur, dubbed P/2019 LD2, is likely the latest member of the ‘bucket brigade’. These are comets that get kicked out of the
The Kuiper belt is the asteroid belt’s outer solar system cousin. The haven of icy, leftover debris from our planet’s construction 4.6 billion years ago is located beyond even Neptune’s orbit. It contains millions of objects. Every once in a while, these objects have near misses or collisions that drastically alter their orbits from the Kuiper belt inward into the giant planet region.
And, P/2019 LD2, is likely one of the many icy relics on a bumpy towards the Sun. According to the researchers at NASA, members of the bucket brigade can spend nearly five million years sucked into the gravity of a large planet before crossing over into the inner solar system.
On the other hand, it i also possible that the Centaur will never make the crossing. "Short-period comets like LD2 meet their fate by being thrown into the Sun and totally disintegrating, hitting a planet, or venturing too close to Jupiter once again and getting thrown out of the solar system, which is the usual fate," explained Lisse.
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