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Carla Andréa
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2015 BZ509: the First Retrograde Asteroid Sharing an Orbit with Jupiter without Crashing

In the March 30 2017 issue of the journal Nature, astronomers reveal that an as-yet-unnamed rare asteroid with the provisional designation 2015 BZ509 (nicknamed 'BZ') travelling in the opposite direction to all the planets and 99.99% of the other asteroids in our Solar System — a state referred to as retrograde motion — is also safely sharing the orbital space of the giant planet Jupiter.

The report was co-authored by Paul Wiegert of Western's department of physics and astronomy, as well as Martin Connors of Athabaska University Observatories in Alberta, University of Calgary’s department of physics and astronomy and the Institute for Space-Earth Environmental Research at the University of Nagoya, Japan, and Christian Veillet of the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory in Tucson, Ariz.

As of February 2017 its period was 11.65 years and its orbit had an eccentricity of 0.38 and an inclination of 163 degrees. Its period is close to the 11.86-year period of Jupiter. During one Jovian year, Jupiter moves 360° around the sun whereas 2015 BZ509 moves 366.3° in the opposite direction.

The eccentricity of its orbit allows 2015 BZ509 to alternately pass inside and outside of Jupiter's orbit at its closest approaches of 176 million kilometers. Each time it passes near Jupiter its orbital elements, including its period, are slightly altered. Over thousands of years the angle between the position of the asteroid and its perihelion minus the angle between Jupiter and the asteroid's perihelion tends to oscillate around zero with a period of about 660 years and an amplitude of about 125°, although sometimes this difference slips by a whole 360°.

Perturbations from Jupiter maintain the stability of this orbit over millions of years. Simulations show that it has been in its co-orbital relation with Jupiter for at least a million years and will continue for at least another million years. It is somewhat of a mystery how this asteroid (or comet) got into this orbit, but it is thought that at some time in the distant past it was put into an orbit resembling its present orbit by an interaction with Saturn, and then its orbit was perturbed into the state it is in today.

Likewise, in the far future it may eventually get close enough to Saturn to be expelled from its present co-orbital relation with Jupiter.

Go to these articles to learn more:

► The first retrograde co-orbital asteroid: 2015 BZ509
— a Trojan in retreat —>> http://www.astro.uwo.ca/~wiegert/2015BZ509/

► Western University prof, ex-Londoner on team that finds 'wrong-way' asteroid>>
http://www.lfpress.com/2017/03/29/astronomy-western-university-prof-ex-londoner-on-team-that-finds-wrong-way-asteroid

► Backwards asteroid shares an orbit with Jupiter without crashing>>
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2126301-backwards-asteroid-shares-an-orbit-with-jupiter-without-crashing/

► 2015 BZ509>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_BZ509

The Nature journal article "A retrograde co-orbital asteroid of Jupiter" can be accessed at this link.>> http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v543/n7647/full/nature22029.html

If you don't have access to a subscription to Nature, you can still view the article here.>> http://rdcu.be/qthE

Image explanation: The co-orbital asteroids of Jupiter, also known as the 'Trojan asteroids'. The prograde asteroids are shown in white, and 2015 BZ509 (with a trail, shown in green) appears later. The planets and asteroids have been enlarged for visibility.

#SolarSystem, #TrojanAsteroids, #Jupiter, #2015BZ509Asteroid, #Research


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