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Lowell Observatory telescope helps confirms second Trojan Asteroid in Earth's orbit

Trojan asteroid
NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spa
Using the 4.1-meter SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) Telescope on Cerro Pachón in Chile, astronomers have confirmed that an asteroid discovered in 2020 by the Pan-STARRS1 survey, called 2020 XL5, is an Earth Trojan (an Earth companion following the same path around the Sun as Earth does) and revealed that it is much larger than the only other Earth Trojan known. In this illustration, the asteroid is shown in the foreground in the lower left. The two bright points above it on the far left are Earth (right) and the Moon (left). The Sun appears on the right. 

Observations made by the Discovery Telescope operated by Lowell Observatory in Happy Jack have helped an international team of scientists confirm the existence of a second-known Earth Trojan Asteroid, or ETA.

A Trojan asteroid orbits the sun in the vicinity of Earth. Only two have been discovered so far.

Researchers say ETAs provide insight into the evolution of the solar system and are ideal candidates for potential space missions because a spacecraft would require relatively low energy to stay in its shared orbit with Earth.

The findings culminate a ten-year search for such an object by researchers at the University of Barcelona and University of Alicante.