United States astronomers discover asteroid with shortest year

Kilometer-sized asteroid orbits the sun every 151 days

Ye says he hopes the Twilight program will lead to more Atira discoveries, and he looks forward to the possible selection by NASA of the Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) mission, a proposed spacecraft created to look for asteroids closer to the sun than previous surveys.

"Thirty years in the past, individuals began organizing methodical asteroid searches, discovering bigger objects first, however now that nearly all of them have been discovered, the larger ones are uncommon birds", Tom Price of Caltech describes.

Astronomers have recently spotted an asteroid, cataloged as "2019 LF6", who has set the record for the shortest year among those of its kind - it orbits the sun in only 151 days.

The year goes by quickly for this newfound asteroid.

The newly discovered kilometre-sized asteroid dubbed 2019 LF6 has the shortest solar year around our Sun - compared to all the other space rocks found floating around the Solar System at just 151 days.

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"Both of the large Atira asteroids that were found by ZTF orbit well outside the plane of the solar system", NASA JPL research and Caltech professor Tom Prince said in the statement.

The asteroid's orbit takes it beyond the orbit of Venus, and at times it comes closer to the sun than Mercury. That asteroid also turned out to orbit the sun outside of the solar system's plane. They may have ended up there because they got too close to Venus or Mercury and got affected by either of these planets' gravitational pull. The camera system surveys the sky extremely fast, making an ideal tool for finding asteroids.

The best time to look for Atira asteroids is during the twilight hours, around 20 to 30 minutes before and after sunset, when the camera can scan the vicinity around the Sun and not be blinded by its intense glare.

The ZTF team conduct a program called "Twilight" for surveying the night sky for Atira asteroids.

"NEOCam has the double advantage of its location in space and its infrared capability to find these asteroids more easily than telescopes working at visible wavelengths from the ground", he added. Ye hopes his skywatching campaign will result in more Atira discoveries and that NASA pursues future near-Earth object projects like the proposed NEOCam mission, which is created to look for asteroids closer to the sun.

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