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Matrix Software > Learng Astrology > Astrophysical Directions > Solar System > Trojan Asteroids

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Back to Solar System   |   Back to Astrophysical Direction 

Trojan Asteroids

One of the most interesting sub-groups of asteroids are the Trojans. In 1772, the French mathematician and astronomer, Lagrange considered the hypothetical case of a body of relatively small mass (such as an asteroid) revolving around the Sun in the same orbit as a heavy planet. He showed that if the Sun, the planet, and the asteroid were located at the corners of an equilateral triangle, the position of the asteroid with respect to the planet would remain essentially unchanged.

Such an asteroid was actually discovered in 1906 and subsequently a group of 15 or so turned up -- the Trojan asteroids. The Trojans fall into two groups: one group of five asteroids precedes Jupiter in its orbit by 60 degrees of arc and the other ten follow it by that same angle. Today over 1,000 Trojans have been discovered and for some unknown reason there are at least twice many Trojans at the Lagrangian point ahead of Jupiter as there are behind it. Spectral studies show that, as a group, the Trojans are the darkest of all asteroids. They may be composed of debris left over after the formation of Jupiter or they may be accretions of interplanetary matter gravitationally attracted toward the giant planet.

A number of asteroids with highly inclined orbits also exist (one reaching within Mercury's orbit). Some of these cross the orbit of the Earth and some exhibit rotation. Asteroids are the subject of much attention at this time in astronomy.

Copyright (c) 1997-99 Michael Erlewine


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