"2019 LF6 is very unusual both in orbit and in size - its unique orbit explains why such a large asteroid eluded several decades of careful searches", said Dr. Quanzhi Ye, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech and a member of the ZTF team.
Previously, the same team, in collaboration with others as part of an observing campaign called Twilight, discovered another asteroid using this system.
"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. The so-called 2019 LF6 asteroid circles the sun every 151 days, the shortest orbit of any known asteroid.
A team of astronomers led by Quanzhi Ye from Caltech University in the USA found 2019 LF6 using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in California, as noted in a press release.
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A newly-found asteroid has been spotted orbiting the Sun, whizzing past the star every 151 days, the shortest orbit of any space rock on record.
The other asteroid is 2019 AQ3 boasting an orbit that takes 165-days to make a full revolution around the sun. The off-plane orbits suggest that they were flung out of the plane of the solar system by coming too close to Venus or Mercury at some time in the past. This instrument is well-suited for locating Atira asteroids, which feature very brief windows for observation.
It's hard to spot the asteroids because astronomers only have about 20 to 30 minutes before or after sunset to find them, Ye said.
"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. The new mission aims to find near-earth objects so scientists can understand how asteroids were formed and how they will evolve over time as the Solar System changes. 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. "Therefore, we can improve our understanding of the inventory of near-Earth asteroids by studying the Atiras".