A curious asteroid discovered in the vicinity of Jupiter

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An asteroid releasing dust and gas, like a comet, was discovered in the vicinity of Jupiter.

An amazing discovery. A Trojan asteroid, that is to say located on the orbit of Jupiter, has been identified. Its specificity? It releases dust and gas, like a comet, the University of Hawaii announced on May 20.

This discovery dates back to June 2019, thanks to the astronomical survey ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) whose objective is to detect NEOs that can potentially strike the Earth, notes Numerama. The object was then baptized 2019 LD2, by the center of minor planets (CPM).

Image of asteroid 2019 LD2, taken by ATLAS

Image of asteroid 2019 LD2, taken by ATLAS

JD Armstrong / IfA / LCOGT

New images of ATLAS taken one month in July 2019, confirmed the resemblance of the object to a comet, due to a tail made of dust or gas. This was again confirmed by observations made in April 2020.

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Ice buried under the rock?

If 2019 LD2 is amazing, it is because astronomers believe that the asteroids located in its region were captured by Jupiter billions of years ago. Since all this time, any ice which could have vaporized to eject gas or dust, as for a comet, should already have done it.

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“We have believed for decades that Trojan asteroids must have had large amounts of ice beneath their surfaces, but we have never had any evidence so far,” said British astronomer Alan Fitzsimmons, in the press release. ‘University of Hawaii.

Several hypotheses are in any case evoked by the University to explain this cometary behavior. The object could have been captured recently by Jupiter, from a more distant orbit or its surface ice would have been spared until then. But the object could also have undergone a landslide or an impact with another asteroid, having led to exposing ice previously buried under layers of rock. New observations are underway to determine this.

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