back to article Second Trojan asteroid confirmed to be leading our planet around the Sun

Scientists have confirmed the discovery of Earth's second Trojan asteroid leading the planet in its orbit around its nearest star. Dubbed 2020 XL5, the hunk of space rock was discovered in December 2020. Although excitement surrounded the early observations of a second Earth Trojan, low observational coverage meant …

  1. Chris G


    1.18 Km of carbon would make a hell of a barbeque.

    Kudos and a beer for those who found it though, finding such a small object some 300 million Km away. Knowing more or less where to look helps but it is still impressive work.

    1. Skiron

      Re: BBQ

      "1.18 Km of carbon would make a hell of a barbeque."

      I doubt it. I read somewhere once that if the sun was made of coal it would last 3 weeks.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Doing stuff at scale is hard

        Are we transmuting every atom in the sun to carbon? Or are we replacing it with an equivalent mass of carbon?

        The former probably guarantees an instant detonation lasting milliseconds (a "carbon flash") blowing off the outer shell into a planetary nebular and leaving us with an inert white dwarf that's lacking much carbon.

        In the latter case, you have a carbon white dwarf. But where are you getting the oxygen for combustion? Actually, carbon-oxygen white dwarfs form in nature, but electron degeneracy would prevent combustion (the formation of carbon oxides) and the oxygen and the carbon are unlikely to be mixed in a way that would allow it.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Doing stuff at scale is hard

          Are we transmuting every atom in the sun to carbon?

          Actually there are 2 basic fusion processes in the sun, one involving carbon. Depending on the star's size and temperature, one of those two reaction chains is the dominant one, but both typically exist. So carbon production IS a part of the Sun's normal operation, and it gets transformed back and forth as hydrogen is added and helium is spat out (to form carbon again).

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: Doing stuff at scale is hard

            The sun is about 1% CNO and 99% PP chains. And the carbon is a catalyst; it's not going to turn it into a giant lump of coal.

            Whereas, if it was heavy enough, it would use triple alpha to create a carbon core. That's how you end up a lump of carbon supported by electron degeneracy.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: BBQ

        I suspect that's last three weeks as the sun (i.e. if you were substituting coal burning for nuclear fusion).

        I'm sure that much coal would last many billions of years if we were using it for fuel.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: BBQ

          If the entire planet switched overnight to just using coal for all our energy requirements, the average life expectancy would plummet around the world, and civilisation probably wouldn't last to see 2100. (Not that we stand a great chance of lasting that long as it is anyway.)

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge

            Re: BBQ

            (re: entire planet switched overnight to just using coal, doomsday by 2100 etc.)

            if you scrub the coal stacks, probably not. This isn't the 1800's after all... black smoke from coal burning steam plants darkening the skies of every major city (etc.).

            Then again, rain usually washes the skies enough to avoid a complete doomsday scenario. And strangely enough, the gasses emitted by fossil fuel burning plants (having an affinity for water), in addition to the particulates, would ALSO tend to seed the rain clouds, helping to wash it all out of the atmosphere. With luck, it doesn't become a serious 'acid rain' problem and actually helps plants to grow better (nitrates and sulfates) as well as maintaining the CO2 equilibrium.

            (But yeah, using scrubbers means you can extract the nitrates and sulfates and turn them into fertilizer)

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: BBQ

              "if you scrub the coal stacks, probably not. "

              Even if you scrub the stacks.

              Once atmospheric CO2 levels exceed 800ppm, Very Bad Things happen in fairly non-reversible manners in a positive feedback loop which takes a very long time to recover from (tens of thousands of years)

              That's what characterised the very rapid set of events at the end of the Permian era (the knee point of the extinction event) - which played out in less than a decade - by which point 90++% (species count and biomass) of plant and animal life on the planet (terrestrial and marine) was dead

              There IS a "planetary complex life reset button" (without invoking asteroids or volcanism) and we've been inadvertently leaning on its cover for a while. The only question is what the yield force is....

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: inadvertently leaning on its cover for a while

                Who, us?


                Cue another thread about different type of molly-guards, or whatever they are called...

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: BBQ

              No, this isn't the 1800s. The world's population is eight times larger and our energy usage is 30 times higher than it was 200 years ago. :)

              Providing all that energy through coal alone would be disastrous.

            3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: BBQ

              Apart from the practical difficulties of the switch, your chemistry is way off. While scrubbing removes a lot, it doesn't remove everything. Otherwise you'd have nothing left "to seed" those rain clouds in your argument. CO2 is not particularly hydrophilic so won't do any seeding, but water vapour is a normal byproduct of burning hydrocarbons. Not that releasing more of it into the atmosphere will do anything to cool things down: clouds trap infrared energy and are both cause and effect of global warming and those warm clouds will help warm up the oceans…

        2. Skiron

          Re: BBQ

          I think it was a Bill Bryson book I read it in.

      3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: it would last 3 weeks.

        That is still one hell of a barbeque.

    2. mtp

      Re: BBQ

      I think they mean Carbonaceous chondrite

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: BBQ

      1.18 Km of carbon would make a hell of a barbeque.

      I wonder if it contains DIAMONDS...

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: BBQ

        insufficient core pressures

  2. Steve K


    I hope desperately that it was named after Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's Fireball XL5, and not something more mundane!

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: XL5

      The flyby mission vehicle has to be called Fireball and schduled for 2063

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: XL5

        But will it have strings attached?

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: XL5

          And piloted by Steve Zodiac?

          "We'd take the path to Jupiter,

          And maybe very soon.

          We'd cruise along the Milky Way,

          And land upon the moon. "

          No mention of asteroids, though

      2. Snake Silver badge

        Re: the flyby mission

        Oh, no. If in *any* way it might impact, I foresee a "Don't Look Up" scenario in the making...

    2. EBG

      Re: XL5

      Guessing - it's the L5 Lagrange point

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: XL5

        Maybe they had a smudge on their glasses and it was listed in a spreadsheet as XLS ?

      2. Captain TickTock

        Re: XL5

        L4 if it's leading the Earth around the sun I think

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: XL5

          If it's been mis-named someone will end up taking L4 it.

      3. aks

        Re: XL5

        L2 according to Wikipedia

        1. EBG

          Re: XL5

          That's the Webb, not an asteroid !

    3. Bill Gray

      Re: XL5

      More mundane, I'm afraid. '2020 X' = found in first half of December 2020; 'L5' = an index of which discovery it was within that half-month.

      Documentation of the 'provisional' minor planet designations

  3. lglethal Silver badge

    So if we're going to send any sort of Lander, it needs to be made of Wood right. Well, we've got just the thing on the way -

    Or maybe the mission just needs an appropriate Name - Trojan Hunk Of Rock Satellite Explorer (naturally shortened to Trojan HORSE)...

  4. b0llchit Silver badge

    Trojan Carbon - An alien gift

    A rogue made of carbon can be molded into any shape quite easily. They should send an artist in a rocket to Carve a Horse out of the asteroid. Then all Aliens should be directed to that site and can be burned like a real Trojan.

    Actually, Aliens may already have carved the horse and our detection of said rogue is an invitation to investigate. That type of horse may be our doom. But, an asteroid of carved carbon of that size, what is not to like. At least we can have commercial flight to facilitate asteroid tourism.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Trojan Carbon - An alien gift

      Indeed, we must not bring it back to Earth, in case a hidden trapdoor opens in the night and the aliens pour out. Safer to strap a rocket to it and set the controls for the heart of the Sun.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Re: Trojan Carbon - An alien gift

        Only The Expanse' bad boy straps rockets to asteroids. And then they are directed at earth. Maybe we should nuke it while we still can?


        1. steelpillow Silver badge

          Re: Trojan Carbon - An alien gift

          No nukes, they have nuclear shields. It'll only let them know that we know. Still, I suppose that at least then we will know that they know that we know, but then they too will know that we know that they know that we know...

      2. ShadowSystems

        At SteelPillow, re: rockets.

        I keep trying to strap them to the Earth, but meddling kids keep thwarting my evil plans.

        *Comical grumpy hurrumph*

        How am I supposed to destroy everything so the cockroaches & Twinkies can take over if those kids won't leave me alone?


  5. Potemkine! Silver badge

    That's a little bit worrying that we discover an asteroid larger than 1 km sharing Earth's orbit just now. Thanks God it's a Trojan, so there shouldn't be any collision risk, but this suggests there may be other big ones not that far.

    I thought the distinction between a planet and a dwarf planet was that a dwarf planet hasn't a distinct orbital path. Trojans share planets' orbits, so the former criteria isn't right, is it?

    1. Irony Deficient

      I thought the distinction between a planet and a dwarf planet was …

      … that a dwarf planet hasn’t a distinct orbital path.

      I think that the IAU distinction is that a dwarf planet hasn’t “cleared its orbital neighborhood” of objects of comparable size.

    2. ShadowSystems

      At Potemkin, re: Dwarf planets.

      It's not a proper Dwarf until Disney sends up SnowWhite to make a mess in the WC.


      I'll get my coat, it's the one with the pockets full of script ideas. =-Jp

  6. A. Coatsworth Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    So, if there are trojan asteroids on Earth's path, it means Earth has not cleared its orbit from other debris, which in turns means that Earth is not actually a planet!


    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Actually all planets have Trojans, including big fat Jupiter...

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        So,... none are planets! They will all be reclassified as dwarf planets and Pluto's honor is finally restored.

      2. Neoc

        Bring back Pluto

        According to NASA ( the requirements are:

        1) It must orbit a star (in our cosmic neighborhood, the Sun).

        2) It must be big enough to have enough gravity to force it into a spherical shape.

        3) It must be big enough that its gravity cleared away any other objects of a similar size near its orbit around the Sun.

        That's the second time Earth has failed this last criteria!!

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: Bring back Pluto

          > of a similar size

          Oh my. That's vague enough to mean "to the judge's discretion".

          Meaning if you have enough money you can be a full planet, but if you can't pay you're just a vertically challenged horizontally challenged diagonally challenged planet of short stature.

  7. Disk0

    Santa’s reward

    That is all.

    1. aregross

      Re: Santa’s reward

      I got that!

      "All I got was a lump of Coal"

  8. BackToTheFuture

    Fireball XL5 the obvious mission vehicle

    Perhaps a collaboration between Gerry Anderson's descendants and Elon Musk to create SpaceXL5? After all, the original Fireball XL5 was a reusable spacecraft and had a VTOL crew nose cone for planetary exploration. And away thought Musk has a touch of the supermarionation about him, although haven't spotted any strings so far - just a matter of time, methinks.

    BTW, I just looked up the character bio section on the Gerry Anderson Encyclopaedia fandom site to check what's going on with the gorgeous, pouting Dr Venus -- they'll need a medic on board - and her Trump-like pet Zoonie. Turns out she was rescued from a survival shelter after the mass riots across France following the Europoean Atomic War of 2028 AD!

    Do these people know something we don't?

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