Asteroid spotted in outer reaches of solar system

April 30th, 2009 - 12:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, April 30 (IANS) An astronomy student spotted a huge rock orbiting the outer reaches of our solar system, when he was scanning the skies for potentially hazardous asteroids.
“The asteroid image obtained by the Zadko telescope is the same as detecting a grain of sand from 130 km away,” said David Coward, a professor at the University of Western Australia (UWA).

Asteroids are big rocks, ranging from metres to kilometres in size, that cross the Earth’s path and occasionally hit a planet. They are difficult to spot because they move fast and are faint.

Curtin University student Mick Todd made the discovery after imaging an unidentified faint object, which upon verification turned out to be a new asteroid.

Unlike comets, asteroids are numbered not named. So instead of being called the Mick Todd asteroid, it will be known as asteroid 2009 FH19, said an UWA release.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of rocks and asteroids being discovered because of sophisticated telescopes. This data is contributing to a better understanding of the solar system.

“In the next six months Mick plans to search for asteroids and rocks lurking closer to Earth. Some of these are so close that impacts can occur only hours after discovery,” said Coward.

Such collaboration between UWA and Curtin has resulted in students like Mick Todd making world class discoveries, said Marjan Zadnik, a Curtin University professor.

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