University of Alicante and Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona scientists have confirmed the existence of the second Earth Trojan asteroid. It is known as 2020 XL5. The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
All celestial objects that roam around our solar system feel the gravitational influence of all the other massive bodies that build it. Newton’s laws of gravity state that there are five points. There all the forces that act upon an object located at that point cancel each other out. These regions are called Lagrangian points. They are areas of great stability. Earth Trojan asteroids orbit around the L4 or L5 Lagrangian points of the sun-Earth system.
These results confirm that 2020 XL5 is the second transient Earth Trojan asteroid. It will be located at the Lagrangian point for four thousand years. It is qualified as transient. Scientists provided an estimation of the object bulk size. Scientists made a study of the impulse a rocket needs to reach the asteroid from Earth. Trojan asteroids existed for decades in other planets such as Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. In 2011, the first Earth Trojan asteroid was found. Astronomers described many observational strategies for the detection of new Earth Trojans.
The low success can be explained by the geometry of an object orbiting the Earth-sun L4 or L5. These objects are observable close to the sun. The observation time window between the asteroid rising above the horizon and sunrise is very small. Astronomers point their telescopes very low on the sky. The visibility conditions are at their worst. The handicap of the imminent sunlight saturating the background light of the images for just a few minutes.
Scientists carried out a search of 4-meter telescopes. It would be able to observe under such conditions. Scientists finally obtained the data from the 4.3m Lowell Discovery Telescope and 4.1m SOAR telescope.
The discovery of the Earth Trojan asteroids is very significant. These can hold a pristine record on the early conditions in the formation of the solar system. As the primitive Trojans might have been co-orbiting the planets during their formation. They add restrictions to the dynamic evolution of the solar system. Earth Trojans are the ideal candidates for potential space missions.