Image of the Month - February 2003

Earth's Coorbital Companion

Soon after Asteroid 2002 AA29 was discovered on 2002 January 9 by the LINEAR asteroid survey, it became clear that it's orbit is very similar to that of the Earth. Later last year, the object made some headlines when astronomers found out that the space rock, only about 100 meters in size, will temporary become a "quasi-satellite" of the Earth in about 600 years. Closing in to our home planet to 0.039 A.U. (5.9 million kilometers) during January 2003, the faint minor planet was observed by a small number of professional and amateur astronomical sites to improve our konowledge about it's unusual orbit.

2002 AA29
Credit & Copyright: Peter Birtwhistle, Great Shefford Observatory, England

This image of 2002 AA29, taken on Jaunary 12, 2003, by Peter Birtwhistle using a 0.3m Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and a Apogee AP 47p CCD camera at his observatory in Great Shefford, Berkshire, England. A total of 50 individual images, each a 30 second exposure, was stacked using Astrometrica. Compensating the asteroid's motion of 11 arc seconds per minute, the 19mag object became visible as a faint blob among the background stars, which are visible as strings of dots in this image. Birtwhistle used by far the smallest telescope that has contributed precise astrometric observations of this difficult target. (Click on the image to see the full 1k x 1k image.)

Related Links:

  • 2002 AA29 Orbit Animations (JPL)
  • Earth and Asteroid Play Orbital Cat and Mouse Game (JPL)
  • Earth coorbital asteroid 2002 AA29 (Queen's University Press Release)

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