NASA’s WISE mission helps in further studies of Jovian Trojans

Artist's rendition of the Jovian Trojans

NASA have found that the mysterious asteroids called as Jovian Trojans are orbiting around the sun on the same orbit as that of Jupiter with some of them in front of the planet and the others behind. NASA used the data from Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) to get this information.

Two studies for this research have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Jupiter

Researchers from the NEOWISE team of the WISE mission found that the Trojans are composed of dark, reddish rocks with a matte, non-reflective surface. These objects are very much similar to each other and have no other objects from elsewhere in the solar system. Moreover, they don’t resemble asteroids from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or other objects from the Kuiper belt on the outer edge of the system.

“Jupiter and Saturn are in calm, stable orbits today, but in their past, they rumbled around and disrupted any asteroids that were in orbit with these planets,” said Tommy Grav, a WISE scientist from the Planetary Science Institute. “Later, Jupiter re-captured the Trojan asteroids, but we don’t know where they came from. Our results suggest they may have been captured locally. If so, that’s exciting because it means these asteroids could be made of primordial material from this particular part of the solar system, something we don’t know much about.”

The team has analyzed 400 Trojans so far. Most of the Trojans are D-type asteroids, which are dark burgundy, and some are C- and P-type grey-bluish asteroids.

“The taxonomic distribution of the Jovian Trojans are found to be different than that of the large Hildas, which is dominated by C- and P-type objects.” Researchers have reported, “At smaller sizes, the fraction of D-type Hildas starts increasing, showing more similarities with the Jovian Trojans. If this similarity is confirmed through deeper surveys, it could hold important clues to the formation and evolution of the two populations.”

“More research is needed, but it’s possible we are looking at some of the oldest material known in the solar system,” said Grav.

These results were presented today at the 44th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.

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