Confirmed the Earth’s little follower +1, found the second Trojan asteroid that shared the Earth’s orbit

There are two groups of well-known Trojan asteroids in front of and behind Jupiter, they orbit the sun together with Jupiter, and the earth has also been confirmed to have a small follower of Trojan celestial bodies in the past, 2010 TK7. Now, after 10 years of searching and 1 year of data analysis, a team led by scientists from the Universities of Alicante and the University of Barcelona’s Institute for Cosmological Sciences (ICCUB) has confirmed the existence of the second Earth Trojan asteroid, 2020 XL5

Trojan objects refer to asteroids that share orbits with planets and are located at the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points before and after the planets. In the past few decades, we have known that Trojan asteroids exist in Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, etc. The planet’s orbit, but the discovery of the first Earth Trojan asteroid was not confirmed until 2011.

Among them, the most famous is Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid. The number of nearly 10,000 asteroids may be comparable to the number of asteroids in the main asteroid belt. The goal of NASA’s Lucy launched in October last year is to explore 7 of these asteroids; followed by Neptune Trojan asteroids, 28 are known to be discovered, but scientists predict that the number of Neptune Trojan asteroids may be one order of magnitude more than Jupiter Trojan asteroids; Mars Trojan celestial bodies include Eureka 5261, 2007 NS2 and other 9.

2010 TK7 is the first confirmed Earth-Trojan asteroid, discovered by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Satellite (WISE), with an orbital period of 365.394 Earth days, similar to the Earth’s orbital period (365.256 Earth days), located in the distant L4 Lagrangian point (the closest distance to the Earth is more than 50 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon).

In December 2020, the Pan-STARRS telescope discovered the 2020 XL5 asteroid for the first time, but at that time it was not possible to determine whether its orbit intersected the Earth, and further follow-up observations were required using the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope (SOAR).

After a year of analysis, a team led by planetary scientist Toni Santana-Ros of the University of Alicante in Spain announced that 2020 XL5 has been confirmed as the second small follower of the Earth in history, also located at the L4 Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth system. It will share an orbit with Earth around the sun for thousands of years.

To find Earth-Trojan asteroids, telescopes must look at the horizon at the lowest elevation limit before or after sunrise to see these Earth-trailing objects, which are extremely challenging observations. However, with the increasing number of low-orbit satellites launched, the “stripes” left by these artificial satellites in telescope images are also causing more and more headaches for astronomers.

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