For at least a million years, an asteroid orbiting the “wrong” way around the sun has been playing a cosmic game of chicken with giant Jupiter and with about 6,000 other asteroids sharing the giant planet’s space, says a report published in the latest issue of Nature.
Experts have concluded the long-term stability demonstrates a new mode of orbital motion, but also means that the origin of this unique object is difficult to determine. Backwards integrations of the clones do not give a clear-cut origin for the current resonant state. An increase in eccentricity for some of the orbits of the clones may have enabled interaction with Saturn to inject the clones into their current orbits, but the precise origin remains uncertain.
The peculiar astronomical objects have been circling our sun for over a million years in a retrograde orbit—meaning that it orbits our sun in the opposite way compared to all other astronomical objects, and has managed to maneuver past Jupiter and countless other planets and moons in our solar system and has never crashed.
In fact, 2015 BZ509 is one of the select few objects in our solar system—discovered so far—that has an opposite, aka retrograde, orbit around the sun, managing to avoid crashing into anything along its way.
There are millions of asteroids and comets that circle our sun following the same path as Earth and other planets in the solar system.
Experts have concluded that BZ is a rogue object—that for some reason—orbits against the natural flow of all objects in Jupiter’s orbital entourage.
Speaking about the rogue object, Dr. Paul Wiegert—part of an international team of researchers which monitors the objects—said:
“It’s as if Jupiter were a monster truck on a track circling the sun, and the asteroids in Jupiter’s orbit are sub-compact cars all whizzing along in the same direction. BZ is the rogue – driving around the track in the wrong direction – and it does so every single lap, and has done so for thousands of laps for a million years or more.”
Somehow, BZ has managed to maneuver past countless objects including Jupiter. According to experts, this has something to do with the gas giant’s gravity, and how it deflects the path of the object on each orbit. This allows BZ to cruise around our solar system’s neighborhood without crashing into anything.
Dr. Martin Connors of Athabasca University—coauthor of the study—said: “Passes relatively near Jupiter take place twice on each body’s orbit around the sun. One is inside Jupiter’s orbit, the other outside, so the disturbing effects of Jupiter, remarkably, cancel out.”
So far, experts have very limited information about the objects which has discovered only recently in 2015.
As reported by the Daily Mail, BZ is believed to have a diameter of around three kilometers and most likely comes from the same place where Halley’s Comet originate from. Halley’s Comet is another astronomical object which has a retrograde orbit.
So far, experts are unable to agree whether BZ is an icy comet or a rocky asteroid.
The newest data gathered by experts is a result of 300 days of complex calculations and observations using numerous astronomical telescopes and cameras.
The gathered data has shown that BZ has maintained a stable orbit—managing to maneuver around our solar system—for at least a million years, and it will most likely continue to do so for another million years.
Dr. Wiegert concluded that learning more about this astronomical object will help us understand more about previously unmapped and unknown features inside our solar system.