A long-lived horseshoe companion to the Earth

A. A. Christou, D. J. Asher


Asteroid's motion over 100yr

ABSTRACT
We present a dynamical investigation of a newly found asteroid, 2010 SO16, and the discovery that it is a horseshoe companion of the Earth. The object’s absolute magnitude (H = 20.7) makes this the largest object of its type known to-date. By carrying out numerical integrations of dynamical clones, we find that (a) its status as a horseshoe is secure given the current accuracy of its ephemeris, and (b) the time spent in horseshoe libration with the Earth is several times 105 yr, two orders of magnitude longer than determined for other horseshoe asteroids of the Earth. Further, using a model based on Hill’s approximation to the three-body problem, we show that, apart from the low eccentricity which prevents close encounters with other planets or the Earth itself, its stability can be attributed to the value of its Jacobi constant far from the regime that allows transitions into other coorbital modes or escape from the resonance altogether. We provide evidence that the eventual escape of the asteroid from horseshoe libration is caused by the action of planetary secular perturbations and the stochastic evolution of the eccentricity. The questions of its origin and the existence of as-yet-undiscovered co-orbital companions of the Earth are discussed.

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Last Revised: 2011 April 1st