Wrong-Way, Daredevil Asteroid Plays ‘Chicken’ with Jupiter
By Hanneke Weitering
This image of asteroid 2015 BZ509, captured by the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory (LBTO), helped astronomers establish the object’s retrograde, co-orbital nature.
Astronomers have found a bizarre asteroid orbiting the sun in the wrong direction while playing a risky game of “chicken” with the largest planet in the solar system.
The unnamed asteroid shares Jupiter’s orbital space while moving in the opposite direction as the planet, which looks like a recipe for a collision, astronomers said. Yet somehow, the asteroid has managed to safely dodge Jupiter for at least tens of thousands of laps around the sun, a new study showed.
This mysteriously lucky asteroid was discovered in 2015 by astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS1) in Hawaii. It was given the provisional designation 2015 BZ509 with the nickname “BZ.” Scientists noticed that the asteroid moves in the opposite direction of every planet and 99.99 percent of asteroids orbiting the sun, in a state known as retrograde motion.