Astronomers have just found an asteroid that revolves around the sun every 165 earth days, the shortest period measured in a known asteroid.
The space rock, called 2019 AQ3, could be part of a huge and virtually unknown population that is approaching the inner solar system, very close to the sun.
"We have found an extraordinary object whose orbit is only a short distance from the Venus lane, which is very important," said Quanzhi Ye of the Center for Infrared Analysis and Processing (IPAC), an astronomical and scientific data center, in a statement. from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
2019 AQ3 is a "very rare species", you said, and added "There can be many more asteroids to discover".
The orbit of asteroid 2019 AQ3 is not the shortest. The planet Mercury makes a trip around the sun every 88 days. But space-rock is unique, according to the researchers, Space.com reports.
2019 AQ3 was discovered on January 4 in images captured by the ZTF (Zwicky Transient Facility), a camera installed in the 122-centimeter long Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory in Southern California.
The ZTF, which started working in March 2018, scans the entire visible northern sky every three nights. The wide field of view and the frequency of rapid rise make the ZTF a great spectator of explosions of supernova's, asteroids and other "transients": objects and astronomical phenomena that are only temporarily visible.
In fact, the camera has already detected 60 new near-Earth asteroids, according to members of the ZTF team.
After the location, 2019 AQ3, other research groups observed the object on 6 and 7 January, using a variety of telescopes. The astronomers also reviewed the archived data and found evidence of 2019 AQ3 in images captured by the Pan-STARRS telescope on Hawaii that dates from 2015.
When collecting all this information, Ye and his colleagues were able to map in detail the AQ3 job of 2019. As determined by the researchers, the asteroid focuses around the sun on an elliptical path that brings it into the orbit of Mercury at a point nearer and slightly further than Venus at the most distant point.
And the 2019 AQ3 lane is tilted, away from the plane of the Earth and the other major planets of the solar system. Therefore 2019 AQ3 seems to belong to the class of asteroids Atira (also known as Apohele), which have internal jobs with those of the earth.
According to the researchers, there are only about 20 space rock, of the 800,000 known asteroids, Atiras.
"The origin of the Atiras is an intriguing and open question"said research team member Wing-Huen Ip, professor of astronomy and space science at the institute for astronomy and space science at the national central university of Taiwan. "With each additional object we come closer to the formulation and testing of models about that origin and the history of our solar system."
There will probably be much more Atiras and those who focus the Earth in their sights can be particularly dangerous, the researchers said. This is because these asteroids come from the direction of the sun and are therefore difficult to detect because of the overwhelming brightness of our star.
2019 AQ3 is not dangerous, however. The job never brings it closer to the earth than 35.4 million kilometers, according to the researchers.
Although the size of the newly discovered asteroid is unclear, observations suggest that it could be nearly 1.6 kilometers wide. If that is the case, 2019 AQ3 would be one of the biggest known Atiras.