Three centaurs follow Uranus through the solar system

Jun 18, 2013
Credit: SINC

Astrophysicists from the Complutense University of Madrid have confirmed that Crantor, a large asteroid with a diameter of 70 km has an orbit similar to that of Uranus and takes the same amount of time to orbit the Sun. Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that this and a further two objects of the group of the Centaurs are co-orbital with Uranus.

Uruguayan Tabaré Gallardo suggested in 2006 that the asteroids Crantor and 2000 SN331 complete their orbits of the in the same time period as - an of approximately 84 Earth years. Now two researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM, Spain) have confirmed that in the case of Crantor this is true.

"The simulations we have carried out in the Data Processing Centre of the UCM indicate that 2000 SN331 does not have 1:1 commensurability with Uranus, but Crantor does, which means it orbits the Sun in exactly the same time period as the planet," Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, one of the authors of the study, explains to SINC.

In addition, Crantor's orbit has a very similar semi-major axis to that of Uranus, although its and inclination vary. The trajectories, figures and animations are published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

"This 70 km-wide 's orbit is controlled by the Sun and Uranus but is unstable due to disturbances from nearby Saturn," states De la Fuente Marcos.

The researcher also reveals that they found another object, which has been named 2010 EU65 and moves in a similar orbit to Crantor's, "although much more stable because its trajectory is less eccentric."

Similarly, the latest data of a third asteroid, 2011 QF99 - the discovery of which was made public only a few weeks ago - also indicate that its orbit is in line with that of Uranus.

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According to the Minor Planet Center, the regulating organization for the naming of asteroids and comets, the three objects that "follow" Uranus belong to the group of the Centaurs. These icy planetoids endowed with a mythological name orbit the Sun between Jupiter and Neptune.

"Crantor, 2010 EU65 and 2011 QF99 are the first bodies to be documented as co-orbiting with Uranus," affirms De la Fuente Marcos, "although with distinct movements and trajectories."

Horseshoe and tadpole orbits

From the point of view of an observer rotating along with Uranus, both Crantor and 2010 EU65 have "horseshoe" orbits, since they acquire this form as they move towards and away from the planet. In fact, these two centaurs periodically have close encounters with Uranus.

However, 2011 QF99 maintains a more stable, Trojan or "tadpole" orbit, which means that it moves 60 degrees in front of Uranus. This asteroid always maintains a relatively large distance from the planet.

The scientists calculate that the orbits of these three objects associated with Uranus could remain stable for a few million years. In astronomical terms this is not very long. With the Data Processing Centre's simulations, the same team has identified three new Mars Trojan asteroids with stable orbits of up to 10,000 million years.

Explore further: Despite extensive analysis, Fermi bubbles defy explanation

More information: Fuente Marcos, C. and Fuenta Marcos, R. Crantor, a short-lived horseshoe companion to Uranus, Astronomy & Astrophysics 551: A114, March 2013.
Fuente Marcos, C. and Fuenta Marcos, R. Crantor, Three new stable L5 Mars Trojans, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters 432: 31-35, May 2013.

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User comments : 10

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El_Nose
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 18, 2013
because of the title of the article -- every author needs a friend that specializes in toilet humor to give a thumbs up on headlines. this is just too funny to ignore.
Tektrix
1 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2013
The 10-year-old in me is giggling to beat all :D Awesome headline!
LariAnn
1.3 / 5 (8) Jun 18, 2013
I've seen dogs that follow Uranus around the room . . .
philw1776
2.2 / 5 (10) Jun 18, 2013
Interesting. So now Uranus is not a planet since it has not "cleared its orbit" per the new IAU definition that excludes Pluto as a planet. I'm being snarky but the IAU definition of a planet needs further work. Seeing that its more semantic than scientific it may be difficult to set a firm human language boundary on nature's wide creative spectrum of non-fusion objects.
Neinsense99
3.5 / 5 (8) Jun 18, 2013
"Three centaurs follow Uranus through the solar system" Discovering those must have been a labour of Herculean proportions...
Q-Star
3.1 / 5 (7) Jun 18, 2013
Interesting. So now Uranus is not a planet since it has not "cleared its orbit" per the new IAU definition that excludes Pluto as a planet. I'm being snarky but the IAU definition of a planet needs further work. Seeing that its more semantic than scientific it may be difficult to set a firm human language boundary on nature's wide creative spectrum of non-fusion objects.


Ya have it just a tad wrong, it's "cleared the neighborhood around it's orbit". That wording wasn't meant to imply "Cleared everything out of it's orbit". It means it is the major body of it's orbit and dominates other objects in it's neighborhood. Jupiter shares the same phenomena with the Trojan bodies. Pluto is still relentlessly bumping into things. The things in Jupiter's and Saturn's orbits are pretty much stable, not so with Pluto's orbital neighbors.
VendicarE
3.2 / 5 (9) Jun 18, 2013
Clingons around Uranus?

Impossible!
VENDItardE
1.6 / 5 (13) Jun 18, 2013
"Crantor, 2010 EU65 and 2011 QF99 are the first bodies to be documented as co-orbiting with Uranus,"

which can definitely not be said about VendicarE
VendicarE
5 / 5 (7) Jun 18, 2013
True. VendiTardE is not co-orbiting Uranus. He is circling the drain.
Neinsense99
3.3 / 5 (7) Jun 23, 2013
True. VendiTardE is not co-orbiting Uranus. He is circling the drain.

And the word from The Drain is that it isn't very happy about that.