Trojan asteroid

From Academic Kids

As originally defined, Trojan asteroids have a semi-major axis between 5.05 AU and 5.40 AU, and lie in elongated, curved regions around the two Lagrangian points 60° ahead and behind of Jupiter. The term is sometimes used to refer to minor bodies with similar relationships to other major bodies.



E. E. Barnard is now believed to have made the first observation of a Trojan asteroid, in 1904, but the significance of his observation was not noted at the time. It was believed to have been a sighting of the recently discovered Saturnian satellite Phoebe, which was only two arc-minutes away in the sky at the time, or possibly even a star. The identity of the point of light Barnard observed was not realised until an orbit was constructed for the Trojan (12126) 1999 RM11, an object that was only (re)discovered in 1999. For failing to realise what he was looking at, Barnard's observation is now only a historical curiosity.

In February 1906, the German astronomer Max Wolf discovered an asteroid at the L4 Lagrangian point of the SunJupiter system, and named it 588 Achilles, after the mythical Achilles, one of the heroes of Homer's Iliad. The oddity of its orbit was realized within a few months, and before long, many other asteroids were discovered at this point (and the other triangular Lagrange point of the Sun–Jupiter system).

There are currently (July 2004) 1679 known Trojan asteroids — 1051 at L4 and 628 at L5. There are undoubtedly many others too small to be seen with current instruments. As of October 1999, 170 had been numbered; by July 2004, that number had grown to 877. The largest of the Trojans is 624 Hektor, measuring 370195 km.


Following Wolf's lead these asteroids were given names associated with the Iliad — in fact, those in the L4 point are named after Greek heroes of the Iliad (the "Greek node" or "Achilles group"), and those at the L5 point are named after the heroes of Troy (the "Trojan node"). Confusingly, the latter group are sometimes called Patroclean asteroids after the most prominent of those, even though Patroclus (the hero) was on the Greek side. However, 617 Patroclus (the asteroid) was the first discovered asteroid at the L5 point, and was named before the Greece/Troy rule was devised. The Greek node also has one "misplaced" asteroid; 624 Hektor.

As the Iliad deals with the events of the Trojan War, the asteroids came to be collectively known as Trojan asteroids. Over time, this term has come to be more generally applied to any planetoidal body at the triangular Lagrangian point of any two bodies — besides Jupiter's Trojans, Mars and Neptune have one Trojan each, plus there are Trojan moons around Saturn (TelestoTethysCalypso and PolydeucesDioneHelene). Strictly speaking, the term Trojan applies only to those in the L4 and L5 points of the Sun–Jupiter system.

See also

External link

The minor planets
Vulcanoids | Main belt | Groups and families | Near-Earth objects | Jupiter Trojans
Centaurs | Trans-Neptunians | Damocloids | Comets | Kuiper belt | Oort cloud
(For other objects and regions, see: Binary asteroids, Asteroid moons and the Solar system)
(For a complete listing, see: List of asteroids. For pronunciation, see: Pronunciation of asteroid names.)
da:Trojanske asteroider

de:Trojaner (Astronomie) fr:astrode troyen it:Asteroidi Troiani ja:トロヤ群 nl:Trojanen (planetoden) pl:Trojańczycy ru:Троянские астероиды zh:特洛依小行星


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