Our solar system is full of rocky debris from it’s formation 4.6 billion years ago including comets, meteors and millions of asteroids. Most of those asteroids hang out in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter but plenty of them follow a less typical orbits. Last month that is January 2020, astronomers found the first asteroid orbiting closer to the Sun than the Venus which gives it the tightest orbit than any asteroid we ever seen.
Astronomers discovered this rock at the Palomar Observatory in southern California. The camera that captured it has been scanning the sky to detect signals which we get from supernovae. But it picked up something interesting inside of our solar system and it was an asteroid which is termed as 2020 AV2.
The entire asteroid is about the size of few city blocks and it zips around the Sun every 151 days and that is the shortest year of any asteroid we have found so far. We have only ever found 21 asteroids orbiting the Sun closer than Earth and they make up a small population called Atiras. Since the 2020 AV2 is the first Atiras to live inside Venus’s orbit, astronomers call it the first member of so called Vatira class of asteroids.
Scientists are not sure if it is a part of a larger population of Vatira asteroids or if it is a special. But astronomers will be looking for more like it because these tightly orbiting asteroids may hold some clues about the evolution solar system. Right now, astronomers do not know exactly how 2020 AV2 ended up with such a small orbit, but it probably did not start out that way. It is more likely that it migrated from somewhere farther out. That means that 2020 AV2 and any other Vatiras could help astronomers figure out what was happening in our solar system in the past that sent these space rocks plunging towards the Sun.