A large asteroid has eluded astronomers because of its unusual orbit — until now.
Astronomers have noticed 2019 LF6, which is about a kilometer wide and boasts the shortest “yr” of any identified asteroid, circling the solar about every 151 days, based on the California Institute of Technology.
This rare rocky body is certainly one of only 20 identified Atira asteroids, those whose orbits fall entirely within that of the Earth.
“You don’t find kilometer-size asteroids very often these days,” mentioned Quanzhi Ye, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech who found 2019 LF6 via the Zwicky Transient Facility, a camera at the school’s Palomar Observatory that scans the sky for objects. “Thirty years ago, individuals began organizing methodical asteroid searches, finding bigger objects first, however now that the majority of them have been found, the bigger ones are rare birds.”
It is difficult to spot the asteroids because astronomers only have about 20 to 30 minutes before or after sunset to find them, Ye said.
“LF6 could be very unusual each in orbit and in size — its unique orbit explains why such a big asteroid eluded several many years of careful searches,” Ye stated.In its orbit, 2019 LF6 swings out beyond Venus and at times comes closer to the sun than Venus, which circles it each 88 days.
The ZTF team has discovered one other Atira asteroid, 2019 AQ3, which orbits the solar about every 165 days.
Besides the Atira asteroids, ZTF has identified about 100 near-Earth asteroids and about 2,000 orbiting in the Main Belt, between Mars and Jupiter.