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Kilometer-sized asteroid orbits the sun every 151 days

11 July 2019

The unusual orbits of Atira asteroids makes them hard to find even if they're large.

"LF6 is very uncommon both in orbit and in size its unique orbit explains why such a big asteroid eluded several years of careful searches", Quanzhi Ye, the postdoctoral scholar at Caltech who found 2019 LF6, stated in a statement. The so-called 2019 LF6 asteroid circles the sun every 151 days, the shortest orbit of any known asteroid.

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The asteroid crosses that space in an unusual elliptical roadtrip that brings it closer to the Sun than even Mercury and then causes it to travel way past Venus on the other end. So far, the program has discovered one other Atira asteroid, named 2019 AQ3. "Now that most of (the larger objects) have been found, the bigger ones are rare birds".

Kim Darroch resigns: Boris Johnson blamed for United Kingdom ambassador quitting over row with Donald Trump'LF6 is very unusual both in orbit and in size-its unique orbit explains why such a large asteroid eluded several decades of careful searches'. The ZTF camera is extremely fast, which makes it suitable for detecting the hidden Atira asteroids, which have short observing windows. They may have ended up there because they got too close to Venus or Mercury and got affected by either of these planets' gravitational pull.

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It's hard to spot the asteroids because astronomers only have about 20 to 30 minutes before or after sunset to find them, Ye said. In February, Yu's team used the ZTF to discover asteroid 2019 AQ3, which, with a year lasting 165 days, was the previous record holder for shortest Atira year. What they mean by "year" is the time it takes the asteroid to complete a full orbit around the sun.

"Both of the large Atira asteroids that were found by ZTF orbit well outside the plane of the solar system", NASA JPL research and Caltech professor Tom Prince said in the statement. "You don't find kilometer-size asteroids very often these days", Ye said. NEOCam would pick up the infrared, or heat, signatures of asteroids. The new mission aims to find near-earth objects so scientists can understand how asteroids were formed and how they will evolve over time as the Solar System changes.

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The International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center listing for 2019 LF6 is at https://minorplanetcenter.net/mpec/K19/K19M45.html.

Kilometer-sized asteroid orbits the sun every 151 days