Archive for October 14, 2021

10/14/2021 – Ephemeris – What is a Trojan Asteroid?

October 14, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, October 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 2 minutes, setting at 6:59, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:58. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 2:13 tomorrow morning.

The Moon is near Jupiter tonight. On this Saturday, the 16th, the window opens up for the launch of NASA’s Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. More about the mission tomorrow, but what’s a Trojan asteroid? The Trojan asteroids are over 10,000 in number that lie in Jupiter’s orbit. One group, the Greeks, orbit around the L4 point 60 degrees ahead of Jupiter. The other, the Trojans orbit the L5 point 60 degrees behind Jupiter. Named after participants of the Trojan War, they are collectively named Trojan asteroids. Other planets, including the Earth, have Trojan asteroids. Trojan asteroids orbit the L4 and L5 gravitational equilibrium points in a planet’s orbit of the Sun, discovered by Joseph-Louis Lagrange in 1772. The first Trojan asteroid, was named Achilles after a warrior in the Trojan War, and was discovered in 1906. As new asteroids were found in these special positions, they were also given names from Homer’s Iliad.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT-4 hours). They may be different for your location.


Jupiter's Trojan Asteroids

The two “camps” of Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids. The Greek camp at L4 and the Trojan camp at L5. Credit Kelly.

Other planets have Trojan Asteroids in their orbits. Earth has one, Mars has four, Uranus has two, Neptune has 28.  These are not the final numbers, just what has been found so far. Apparently, Venus has a temporary one. When the term Trojan Asteroids is used without reference to a planet, they are assumed to belong to Jupiter.