Astronomers Finally Find a Second Asteroid in Earth’s Trojan Belt

Using the 4.1-meter SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) Telescope on Cerro Pachón in Chile, astronomers have confirmed that an asteroid discovered in 2020 by the Pan-STARRS1 survey, called 2020 XL5, is an Earth Trojan (an Earth companion following the same path around the Sun as Earth does) and revealed that it is much larger than the only other Earth Trojan known. In this illustration, the asteroid is shown in the foreground in the lower left. The two bright points above it on the far left are Earth (right) and the Moon (left). The Sun appears on the right. 

Earth has a new companion. Asteroid 2020 XL5, a newly discovered kilometer-wide carbonaceous space rock, has been discovered at Earth’s L4 Lagrange point – a place where the gravitational forces of Earth and the Sun balance out, creating a stable point in which objects can become trapped. A new paper published this week in Nature Communications confirms that 2020 XL5 will be stuck at L4 for at least another 4000 years, shepherded silently through the Solar System by the gravitational tug of our home planet.

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