99.99% of objects in the solar system orbit the Sun in the same direction – counter-clockwise as viewed from above the up above the Earth’s North pole. But, as always, there is always the odd exception to prove the rule. This newly discovered asteroid is in a giant game of chicken with Jupiter
As just published in Nature
and discussed on Space.com
Wrong-Way, Daredevil Asteroid Plays ‘Chicken’ with Jupiter
“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”
“Certainly not a ‘great comet’ by any means,” astronomer Alan Hale, the co-discoverer of 1997’s Comet Hale-Bopp, wrote in a posting to the Comets-ML online forum. “The visibility should hopefully improve over the next few nights as it climbs higher out of the twilight, but I don’t foresee anything spectacular.” So our latest celestial visitor, comet panstarrs, might not be bright as we would have hoped, but maybe here in southwestern desert we will get a good view.
That’s what makes Tuesday’s viewing opportunity so key: On March 12, PanSTARRS should be sitting just to the left of the crescent moon, as indicated in this sky chart from SpaceWeather.com. The moon will thus serve as a guidepost for you to turn your binoculars to the right spot just after sunset. There will be about a 10- to 20-minute window to catch the comet each night starting about March 12 and going through the end of the month. It will get dimmer night after night, so Tuesday is the prime date and experienced amateurs at high elevations with no cloud may get a good view. So go round to your astronomer friend just after sunset and see if you can find it.