American scientists have discovered a unique asteroid 2019 AQ3 rotating unusually close to the Sun, flying around it in just 165 days.
Its strange orbit makes planetary scientists to look for other such objects, according to the project website ZTF.
“We discovered the amazing celestial body, almost never leaving the boundaries of the orbit of Venus. Such objects we had not found that makes 2019 AQ3 representative of a very rare group of asteroids. We assume that we expect and other similar findings,” says Quan-Zhi Ye (Quanzhi Ye) from the California Institute of technology in Pasadena (USA),RIA Novosti reported.
In the last few decades, scientists around the world actively monitor the near-earth asteroids and hold a kind of cosmic “census” among them, trying to understand how dangerous they are for humanity.Asteroids in near-earth space there are so many that astronomers had to create a special scale to assess how likely they fall to the Ground. Current estimates of NASA, the number of small objects within the main asteroid belt can reach a million, of which we know only a few thousand.
Ye and his colleagues discovered one of the most unusual facilities of its kind, studying data collected by the ZTF camera installed at the Palomar Observatory in March last year for observations of supernova explosions and other transient cosmic events.
One of its main objectives is “census” of near-earth asteroids that live in the inner part of the Solar system and is comparable in size to the Chelyabinsk meteorite. These objects, as noted astronomer, almost impossible to see with normal telescopes, and cameras, as the bright Sun light makes them almost invisible to us.
Wider field of view and high speed ZTF allows to find similar objects, watching them in the point in time when they approach the Earth. The last “catch” of this approach was 2019 AQ3 – kilometer asteroid with a very strange orbit, the first traces of which were found in early January.
The fact that most objects in the inner Solar system rotates within the plane of the Ecliptic, a “cake” of the Solar system, not much deviating from it. It is not typical for dwarf planets and comets in the Kuiper belt — where their orbits can be inclined at 30-40 degrees or more.
For comparison, AQ3 2019 orbit is inclined to the plane of the Ecliptic at 47 degrees, making it the most unusual resident of the inner Solar system in this regard. In addition, while he remains the “fast” asteroid makes one revolution around the Sun in 165 days, and one of the largest near-earth objects.
As the scientists, 2019 AQ3 cannot become “a killer of civilization” – he approaches the Earth at a distance of 35 million kilometers at the closest point of approach, that is 90 times bigger than the average distance between the Moon and our planet.
At current, very preliminary calculations, the object moving closer to the Sun at a point located a little further away than mercury, and is removed from it by 0.77 astronomical units, the average distance between the earth and the sun. Most of the time 2019 AQ3 holds inside the orbit of Venus is located 0.72.e. from the Sun.
Unusual orbit not yet disclosed the physical characteristics of the asteroid making it difficult to accurately attributed to any family of small celestial bodies. While scientists temporarily put him in the number of so-called objects-“Atirau”, which includes two dozen objects, never removes farther from the Sun than one astronomical unit.
Hopes Ye, the discovery of other similar asteroids will highlight 2019 AQ3 and its “cousins” in a new family of asteroids. Scientists plan to call them “vulcanoids” in honor of the hypothetical planet Vulcan, whose existence, as did the astronomers of the 19th century, explained the unusual nature of the motion of mercury in its orbit.