Unusual asteriod orbit sheds light on comets’ birth
5 September 2008
MONTREAL — Canadian, French and US astronomers have found a strange asteroid with an odd orbit which could help explain the origin of comets, the National Research Council of Canada reported Thursday.
"The asteroid, currently named 2008 KV42, is orbiting the Sun backwards and almost perpendicular to the orbits of the planets – a 104 degree tilt. This odd orbit suggests that 2008 KV42 may have been pulled into our solar system from the Oort Cloud," the council said in a statement.
The Oort cloud is a theoretical sphere surrounding the solar system but far out from it believed to hold billions of comets. The discovery could shed light on how they transition from the cloud into objects like Halley’s Comet.
"Although we’ve been specifically looking for highly-tilted (beyond) trans-Neptunians for some time now, we didn’t expect to find a retrograde one," said Dr JJ Kavelaars of the council.
"A number of theories on the formation of the outer solar system have suggested that such things might be out there, but observational searches for them are very difficult."
The finding came from the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope in Hawaii and observations were followed up in Arizona and Chile.
[AFP / Expatica]