Athabasca University

Athabasca University

July 27, 2011 13:35 ET

Earth's First Trojan Asteroid Discovered by AU Scientist

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - July 27, 2011) - Dr. Martin Connors and two colleagues have confirmed the existence of the first known Trojan Asteroid associated with earth. The discovery is highlighted in the July 28th, 2011 edition of Nature magazine.

"The discovery is important because it proves that Trojans can exist in orbit around the Sun in a very earth-like orbit," said Dr. Connors. "And since U. S. President Obama announced NASA's intentions to land a man on an asteroid by 2025, we may find Trojans or related asteroids that are the ideal candidates for that landing".

The Trojan, called 2010 TK7 was first detected by Connors and colleagues Paul Weigert and Christian Veillet using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite launched in 2009. The discovery was confirmed using the ground-based Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in April, 2011.

Previously, Trojans were known to exist associated with Jupiter, Neptune and Mars. 2010 TK7 proves that they also are found in stable orbits similar to earth's. "This should make it easier for scientists to get telescope time to look for other Earth Trojans," said Connors. "I'm confident others will be found, giving the space program a number of candidates for a landing by the President's goal of 2025."

Dr. Rory McGreal, Associate Vice-president of Research at AU, is thrilled with the discovery by his colleague.

"I know that Dr. Connors has spent many nights scouring our northern skies and days trudging through the snowy fields of northern Alberta searching for meteorites. This Nature article is a clear demonstration of the importance of his work and adds to his international reputation."

Dr. Connors is the Canada Research Chair in Space Science at Athabasca University. He is in charge of the Athabasca University Geophysical Observatory in northern Alberta and is a world-renowned expert in asteroids and near-earth objects.

The complete article will be available at Nature's website http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature10233, on July 28th, 2011.

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