CentaursDescribe the location and nature of ... centaurs...
In mythology a centaur is half human and half horse. A type of object in space looks half asteroid and half comet. This is called a centaur.
Some orbit between Jupiter and Neptune, the majority orbit between Saturn and Uranus.
They are officially classified as both asteroid and comet.
A centaur many astronomers will be familiar with is Chiron, discovered in 1977.
Astronomers calculate that centaurs have not been in their current orbits for long and are unlikely to stay in them forever. Their unstable orbits and uncharacteristic behaviour have led scientists to speculate whether they are in fact proto comets from the Kuiper Belt that never started their journey around the Sun, or whether they are comets later captured into orbit around the gas planets, having lost or never shedding their icy mantle.
Did you know?
- In 1988 Chiron was observed to have formed a coma like a comet. - Like Pluto, Chiron was discovered using a blink comparator.
Not to be confused with...
Trojans. These are asteroids that share the same orbit as a planet but are ahead or behind it at approximately 60 degrees (a stable point of orbit known as a Lagrangian point).