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Astronomers uncover evidence for early Solar System shake-up

11 Sep 2018, 12:38 UTC
Astronomers uncover evidence for early Solar System shake-up
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SwRI studied the only large binary known in the population of ancient bodies referred to as the Trojan asteroids finding evidence for an early planetary shake-up in the Solar System. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Scientists at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, United States, studied an unusual pair of asteroids and discovered that their existence points to an early planetary rearrangement in our Solar System.
These bodies, called Patroclus and Menoetius, are targets of NASA’s upcoming Lucy mission. They are around 113 kilometres (70 miles) wide and orbit around each other as they collectively circle the Sun. They are the only large binary known in the population of ancient bodies referred to as the Trojan asteroids. The two swarms of Trojans orbit at roughly the same distance from the Sun as Jupiter, one swarm orbiting ahead of, and the other trailing, the gas giant.
“The Trojans were likely captured during a dramatic period of dynamic instability when a skirmish between the Solar System’s giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — occurred,” says SwRI Institute Scientist Dr. David Nesvorny. He is the lead author of the paper, “Evidence for Very Early Migration of the Solar System Planets from ...

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