Scientists have discovered an asteroid that is locked in a permanent dance around the sun with planet Earth. The asteroid is in the same orbit as Earth, meaning it will always travel at the same speed around the sun and stay the same distance away from our planet.
Mike Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology, says scientists didn't discover the asteroid sooner because it is very difficult to spot in the night sky. To see an object, like this new asteroid, that is locked in orbit with the Earth, astronomers must spot it in the early morning or evening, when the sky is less dark.
Although its large orbit around the sun is the same as Earth's, this asteroid keeps up an intricate dance within that orbit, winding its way back and forth as it travels around the sun.
Asteroids are materials left over from the early origins of the solar system, so they could provide some answers about Earth's beginnings for scientists. Brown says that humans may even try to travel to an asteroid someday to discover what it is made of.
"[Asteroids] really are these windows into the very earliest solar system. They are materials that are left over from when the sun and the Earth and the planets formed. And they have been sitting around in space for that past 4.5 billion years. And if we can find them and study them and figure out where they are and where they have come from, we have learned an awful lot about our very own origins." - Mike Brown, California Institute of Technology
1. What kinds of objects can be found in outer space?
2. What is an orbit? What body does Earth orbit?
3. What is an asteroid?
1. According to the video, why would it be hard for astronomers to spot a celestial object that is in the same orbit as Earth? Draw a diagram to support your answer.
2. What kind of information could scientists learn by studying asteroids?
3. Could the asteroid mentioned in this video ever hit Earth? Why or why not?