Astronomers have discovered an unusual species of asteroid looping through the orbit of Venus with significantly shorter days of revolution around the sun.
A Unique Specimen
The state-of-the-art Zwicky Transient Facility), an astronomical survey camera at the Palomar Observatory in California, detected the asteroid on Jan. 4. The asteroid called 2019 AQ3 recorded an orbital period of 165 days. In comparison, Venus has 225 days and Mercury has 88.
The 2019 AQ3 also has a bigger size that is atypical to other species of an asteroid, measuring approximately 1.6 kilometers across.
"We have found an extraordinary object whose orbit barely strays beyond Venus' orbit-that's a big deal," said Quanzhi Ye, a Ph.D. scholar at IPAC, the science and data center for astrophysics and planetary sciences at California Institute of Technology.
Ye said that 2019 AQ3 is a "very rare species" of the asteroid, but it is also likely that there could be other similar ones that are yet to be discovered.
Tracking The Cosmos
2019 AQ3 orbits in a strange direction as it travels above and below the solar system's orbital plane. Only 19 out of all the asteroids that enter the solar system stay in the Earth's orbit.
These asteroids, which are called Atira, Apohele, and Interior-Earth Objects, do not necessarily present a current threat to the planet. However, the scientists said probability may change in the future is the orbits are disturbed by Venus or Mercury.
ZTF has been helpful in tracking transient events like asteroids, supernovae, and black holes. Since March 2018, the survey camera has detected more than 1,100 transient events or space objects that either occur or move quickly.
"ZTF is surveying the whole northern sky every three nights," said Shri Kulkarni, principal investigator of the ZTF. "It's already discovering a few supernovae a night, and we expect that rate to go up."
The ZTF is capable of surveying a vast field of the universe and can image objects up to approximately 230 times the size of a full moon in a single exposure.