Dec 22, 2016 04:17 AM EST
NASA Spacecraft To Search For Trojan Asteroids
A NASA spacecraft has been enlisted to search for Trojan asteroids near Earth. It is slated to gather data by February next year.
Business Insider reported that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will be making its two-year outbound journey to asteroid Bennu. It will pass near Earth's L-4 point, which is gravitationally stable and lies 60 degrees ahead in orbit.
It is believed that asteroids gather near there. The NASA spacecraft will activate its onboard camera suite and search for Trojan asteroids near Earth between Feb. 9 and 20. The spacecraft's mission team is at the University of Arizona (UA).
It was noted that six planets in the solar system have Trojan asteroids. Jupiter has the biggest number discovered so far, with more than 6,000, due to its powerful gravity. On the other hand, Venus is known to have one Trojan asteroid, similar to Earth and Uranus. Mars has seven while Neptune has 18.
The NASA spacecraft is expected to uncover multiple Trojan asteroids near Earth's Lagrangian points. A Lagrangian point is often referred to as gravity well since objects caught in its orbit, such as interplanetary dust, small moons and asteroids, have been found there.
"The Earth-Trojan asteroid search provides a substantial advantage to the OSIRIS-REx mission," Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and professor of planetary science at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, said. "Not only do we have the opportunity to discover new members of an asteroid class, but more importantly, we are practicing critical mission operations in advance of our arrival at Bennu, which ultimately reduces mission risk."
According to Space Daily, scientists expect more Trojan asteroids sharing Earth's orbit. These are challenging to detect from Earth, though, since they appear close to the sun from our point of view.
By mid-February next year, the NASA spacecraft will be in a favorable position to take a survey. The spacecraft will be doing the same task during its search for satellites of asteroid Bennu.
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