For the first time, scientists have found a comet near a population of asteroids orbiting the Sun alongside Jupiter.
Because it is important: Scientists may have found a “pit stop” that other comets can undertake on their way to the inner solar system from further afield, according to NASA.
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The panorama: The comet, called P / 2019 LD2, was discovered not far from a population of asteroids near Jupiter known as Trojans, the new study detailing the find in the Astronomical diary He says.
The comet may have originally been ejected from the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune before orbiting the Sun near the outer gaseous planets.
About two years ago, the comet flew close to Jupiter, which appears to have pushed the object toward the Trojans, where it was found today.
“The good news is that you are actually capturing Jupiter by launching this object and changing its orbital behavior and bringing it into the internal system,” said Carey Lisse, one of the study’s authors in a statement. “Jupiter controls what happens to comets once they enter the internal system by altering their orbits.”
Whats Next: Scientists believe the comet will likely outpace Jupiter in about two years, based on computer simulations.
The comet is expected to interact with Jupiter again and then continue into the solar system.
“The simulations show that in about 500,000 years, there is a 90% chance that this object will be ejected from the solar system and become an interstellar comet,” Lisse said.
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