This illustration by an artist shows pair of asteroids identified as 2019 PR2 and 2019 QR6 (Image credit: UC Berkeley/SETI Institute) Photograph:( Others )
Split off from their parent body merely 300 years ago, they possess properties that are hard to explain due to their young age
Astronomers have spotted the youngest pair of asteroids ever discovered in the solar system.
Split off from their parent body merely 300 years ago, they possess properties that are hard to explain due to their young age.
Nicholas Moskovitz of Lowell Observatory said, “In the present day, the bodies don’t display any signs of cometary activity. So it remains a mystery how these objects could have gone from a single parent body, to individually active objects, to the inactive pair we see today in just 300 years.”
The findings of the study have been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
According to Petr Fatka of the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, “Thanks to the measurements performed with the Lowell Discovery Telescope (LDT) in northern Arizona, it is clear that 2019 PR2 and 2019 QR6 come from the same parent object and their high orbital similarity is not coincidental.”
While the larger asteroid measures about one kilometre in diametre and the other half that size, and they were found to have very similar orbits around the Sun.
The majority of asteroids in our solar system reside in the area between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter known as the main asteroid belt.
Closer to home, scientists have identified additional asteroids known as Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), whose orbits bring them within the vicinity of Earth.
“It’s very exciting to find such a young asteroid pair that was formed only about 300 years ago, which was like this morning—not even yesterday—in astronomical timescales,” says Fatka.
She explains, “To have a better idea about what process caused the disruption of the parent body, we have to wait until 2033 when both objects will be within the reach of our telescopes again.”
(With inputs from agencies)