Feb 05, 2022 I Jocelyne LeBlanc

Scientists Confirm a Second Trojan Asteroid is Accompanying Earth

Scientists have officially confirmed that there is a second Trojan asteroid accompanying our planet and it is much larger than the first. Additionally, it will continue to share our orbit for at least 4,000 years before traveling away from us.

The asteroid, which has been named 2020 XL5, was initially discovered by astronomers in 2020, but further research needed to be conducted before officially confirming it, which they have just done. It orbits along the same path as our planet. Trojan asteroids are small space rocks that travel along the same stable orbit as a planet as it travels around its host star. Earth already has one previously confirmed Trojan asteroid named 2010 TK7.

Trojan 570x428
2010 TK7 has a green circle around it. (Via Wikipedia)

After 2020 XL5 was first detected by astronomers with the Pan-STARRS 1 survey telescope in Hawaii, an amateur astronomer named Tony Dunn calculated its trajectory and confirmed that it orbits L4 (this is the 4th Earth-sun Lagrange point which is an area around our planet and sun). Interestingly, the first confirmed Trojan asteroid, 2010 TK7, orbits at L4 as well.

While the researchers at that time did not have conclusive evidence of how 2020 XL5 orbited around our sun, a team that was led by Toni Santana-Ros, who is a researcher at the University of Alicante and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences (ICCUB) at the University of Barcelona (IEEC-UB), observed the space object with the SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) Telescope in Chile, as well as the Lowell Discovery Telescope in Arizona, and the European Space Agency's Optical Ground Station in Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

Their extensive analysis of the space rock conclusively confirmed that it was in fact an Earth Trojan asteroid. Furthermore, it is believed that it is a C-type of asteroid which is black in color and contains a high level of carbon. And they are the most common type of asteroid found in our Solar System. 2020 XL5 is quite a bit larger than 2010 TK7. While 2020 XL5 measures 0.73 miles across (1.2 kilometers), the much smaller 2010 TK7 is only 0.25 miles in width (0.4 kilometers).

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(Not 2020 XL5 or 2010 TK7)

According to a statement, 2020 XL5 will only be around for about 4,000 years before traveling on its way. So, that means that 2010 TK7 will eventually be left all alone, right? Not necessarily, as there may be even more Earth Trojan asteroids that have yet to be discovered as Santana-Ros told Space.com, “The discovery of 2020 XL5 as an Earth Trojan, confirms that 2010 TK7 is not a rare exception and that there are probably more,” adding, “This encourages us to keep enhancing our survey strategies to find, if exists, the first primordial Earth Trojan.”

Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

Jocelyne LeBlanc

Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.

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