Wow! Earth just found a new neighbour, a Trojan ASTEROID! It will stay here for 4000 years | Tech News

Wow! Earth just found a new neighbour, a Trojan ASTEROID! It will stay here for 4000 years

Researchers have found the second Earth trojan asteroid and it is much larger than the first one.

| Updated on: Feb 03 2022, 13:16 IST
Asteroid and Earth
The second Earth trojan asteroid is going to be travelling with Earth for 4,000 years and could be the perfect launchpad for greater space exploration (Representative Image) (NASA)

11 years after the discovery of the first Earth trojan asteroid 2010 TK7, researchers have confirmed the existence of a second trojan asteroid for Earth. This new trojan asteroid has been named 2020 XL5 and it is three times larger than the first. Spread across a diameter of 1.2 kilometers, this asteroid can serve as the perfect space base to set out space exploration missions in the solar system. This discovery was made after observations from the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope, which is part of NOIRLab's Inter-American Observatory in Chile. Astronomers found the asteroid in 2020 by looking across the sky very close to the horizon at sunrise.

Finally, on February 1, 2022, researchers have published their findings and confirmed the existence of the 2nd trojan asteroid for Earth. So, what is a Trojan asteroid? A Trojan asteroid is an asteroid that travels around the Sun in another planet's orbit. For Earth, these asteroids are often placed in Lagrange points. Lagrange points are gravitational spots between Earth and the Sun in Earth's orbit where the force of both the bodies are equal and opposite and any space rock stuck there will move in the same orbit transfixed in the same position. Earth has 5 such Lagrange points which means there could be more trojan asteroids. However, these asteroids are very hard to spot due to odd angles of their location.

Earth Trojan asteroids: details

The asteroid was first discovered on December 12, 2020 by the Pan-STARRS1 survey telescope in Hawaii. But when it was first discovered, it was not known whether it was a near earth object (NEO) crossing our home planet or a trojan asteroid. To get a better understanding, the asteroid was tracked in SOAR's archive footage from 2012 to 2019 and it was seen that the asteroid 2020 XL5 was in the same position throughout the years. This archival footage was part of its Dark Energy Survey and while that did not bear much results, it did lead to this astonishing discovery.

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But what does this discovery mean for us? Well, its size has been the biggest reason to rejoice. With a diameter of 1.2 kilometers, the asteroid can support space missions and act as refueling point and can even be used as an observatory dedicated to further space exploration. While the potential is high, more observation and research on the asteroid 2020 XL5 will be needed before we can take another step in this direction.

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First Published Date: 03 Feb, 13:16 IST