Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Just Friends" Say Coupled Trojans

Here's one of the most bizarre features of the solar system I've ever heard of.

Jupiter shares its orbit with two swarms of small bodies, called the Trojans, suspended at the gas giant's Lagrange points. These are the points leading and trailing the planet where Jupiter's and the Sun's attractive forces balance each other.

In the rear Trojan swarm are two ex-cons, umm, ex-comets, that orbit each other: a binary Trojan system. According to research published in Nature for 2 February, 617 Patroclus and Menoetius measure only about 122 and 112 kilometres in diameter, and their density is only a third of that of rock. This indicates a cometary origin in the Oort Cloud or the Kuiper Belt. Wild!

And while I wax astronomical: did you hear that Xena is actually quite a bit larger than Pluto?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its no wonder Jupiter is called the solarsystems vacuum cleaner, capturing asteroids and comets alike, otherwise heading for earth.
As for Xena (the warrior princess?)and Pluto (and Charon?) its a bit silly to call them planets when they are as small as they are. When Pluto was named it was believed to be much larger than it turned out to be.

10 February, 2006 11:35  

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