Academic journal article Science Scope

Wrong-Way Asteroid Plays 'Chicken' with Jupiter

Academic journal article Science Scope

Wrong-Way Asteroid Plays 'Chicken' with Jupiter

Article excerpt

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, according to a new report.

The asteroid, nicknamed Bee-Zed, is the only one in this solar system that's known to have both an opposite, retrograde orbit around the Sun while simultaneously sharing a planet's orbital space, says co-author Paul Wiegert.

All but 82 of the million or so known asteroids in our solar system travel around the Sun in a prograde motion: that is, counter-clockwise when visualized from above. But asteroid 2015 BZ509 ("Bee-Zed" for short) circles clockwise, in a retrograde motion, moving against the flow of all other asteroids in the giant planet's orbital entourage.

Put another way, it's as if Jupiter is 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. Bee-Zed, however, drives around the track in the wrong direction, steering between the 6,000 other cars and swerving around the monster truck. …

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