Friday, June 16, 2006

A Neptunian Asteroid Belt? Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
(Hat Tip: The Astronomy Blog)

A group of asteroids have been detected sharing Neptune's orbit. These asteroids are located within the Lagrange zone, a point 60 degrees ahead of a planet. Although a second zone orbiting behind Neptune has not been discovered yet, scientists suspect that the cloud may exist.

(New Scientist Space) A newly discovered asteroid in Neptune's orbit indicates the existence of a much larger, but as-yet-unseen, cloud of rocks in that region. The asteroids in Neptune's orbit might even outnumber those in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the new research suggests. [...]

The asteroids orbit 60 [degrees], or about 5 billion kilometres, ahead of Neptune on its circular orbit around the Sun, which is a gravitationally stable location called a Lagrange point. But the newly-found asteroid is unique in that its orbit is tilted 25° relative to the plane of the solar system.

Although the distance between a Lagrange point and its planet is about the same as the distance between a world and the Sun, this asteroid cloud may provide additional resources towards the Neptunian system. If scientists are able to determine whether these asteroids contain nickel and iron, Neptune may have a potential future as a mining system. END

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