Astronomers still have many opportunities to discover strange new objects. Researchers using the Asteroid Earth Impact Earth Warning System (ATLAS) from the University of Hawaii discovered (via Gizmodo) a Trojan horse asteroid, 2019 LD2, which not only follows a strange orbit in front of Jupiter but also flies an icy tail – it is a unique “cross” between the asteroid and the comet. It also appears to have been active for less than a year, which is unusual when Jupiter Trojans are often billions of years old and should have lost their ice a long time ago.
More data will be needed to determine exactly what led to this one-of-a-kind discovery, but the university’s Astronomy Institute has suggested that Jupiter may have recently captured the asteroid from an orbit distant (and therefore colder), or that a collision with another space rock could have exposed ice that was previously “sheltered” from the heat of the sun. Anyway, this revelation could offer more information about the nature of the solar system and its history.