A rare asteroid is hiding next to Venus, and it could only be detectable thanks to a new, high-end camera of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), which was mounted atop the Samuel Oschin Telescope of the California Institute of Technology. Since March, when ZTF became active, it observed distant supernovae and extreme cosmic events. Also, the instrument examined more than a billion stars from our galaxy, the Milky Way.
Besides all that, the Zwicky Transient Facility is excellent at spotting and observing near-Earth objects (NEO). NASA, as well as other space agencies around the world, try to catalog those NEOs and estimate the risks of a possible collision between one of those space rocks and our planet.
But the newly spotted rock is a rare asteroid. Known 2019 AQ3 this mysterious space object has an orbit entirely within the Earth’s orbit. And it is the most massive asteroid to sport that feature.
Rare Asteroid Identified Inside Our Solar System
“This is one of the largest asteroids with an orbit entirely within the orbit of Earth — a very rare species,” said Quanzhi Ye, a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology’s data and science center for astronomy.
Also, this rare asteroid is the first one of its kind to be spotted within the orbit of Venus, and “it has a vertically angled orbit that takes it in a loop up and over the space where the planets orbit the sun,” CNN reported. “In so many ways, 2019 AQ3 really is an oddball asteroid,” Ye said, cited by the before-mentioned news portal.
The discovery of this rare asteroid also hints to the possibility that there are many more unknown space rocks in the solar system, most of which might exist next to the planets close to the Sun, such as Mercury and Venus. “These small asteroids are only bright enough to be detected during the short period that they are very close to the Earth. During this brief window, the asteroids are moving very fast, posing challenges for astronomers to find and track them,” said Tom Prince from NASA’s JPL. Luckily, the Zwicky Transient Facility can precisely spot them.
With over seven years of experience in online journalism, Vadim is passionate about everything related to science and the environment. For us, he will thus cover climate, environment, and science news, among others.