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How Were the Trojan Asteroids Discovered and Named?

23 Feb 2021, 15:17 UTC
How Were the Trojan Asteroids Discovered and Named?
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This is a view of the inner solar system in a Jupiter-rotating reference frame. The camera begins at viewpoint oblique to the ecliptic plane, then moves up to a top-down view. Clusters of Trojan asteroids appear behind and ahead of Jupiter in its orbit.
(Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

By David Dezell TurnerSouthwest Research Institute

BOULDER, Colo. — On Feb. 22, 1906, German astrophotographer Max Wolf helped reshape our understanding of the solar system. Again.

Born in 1863, Wolf had a habit of dramatically altering the astronomy landscape. Something of a prodigy, he discovered his first comet at only 21 years old. Then in 1890, he boldly declared that he planned to use wide-field photography in his quest to discover new asteroids, which would make him the first to do so. Two years later, Wolf had found 18 new asteroids. He later became the first person to use the “stereo comparator,” a View-Master-like device that showed two photographs of the sky at once so that moving asteroids appeared to pop out from the starry background.

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that on Feb. 22, 1906, Wolf made another important discovery: an asteroid with a particularly unusual orbit. As Jupiter moved, ...

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