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Perhaps, scientists initially speculated, BZ509’s odd orbit was due to its origins in the Oort cloud—an enormous reservoir of comets ejected by Jupiter and the other giant planets to the outer limits of the solar system, where they can be disturbed by passing stars.
If this were the case with BZ509, however, we would be seeing it at an exceedingly special and rare point in its history: a brief moment of illusory orbital stability that will soon decay into chaos. To find out, Namouni and Morais built a virtual time machine.
Yet no comet-like emissions have been detected from BZ509, and it is in resonance with Jupiter, synchronized to periodically swoop within about 175 million kilometers of the giant planet’s cloud tops—just close and often enough for Jupiter to regularly provide gentle tugs that keep its orbit stable for at least a million years. They used a supercomputer to simulate the possible motions of a million digital clones of BZ509, each with slightly different orbital parameters reflecting astronomers’ limited knowledge of the real object’s orbit.
Running their simulation backwards across billions of years of virtual time, they watched almost all the clones succumb to orbital instability.
Namouni expresses this as a simple rule: “If we have two possible orbits for the asteroid—one stable over the age of the solar system, and one that is unstable after say 10 million years—then it is the stable one that represents the real physical orbit.” But critics say this “nothing special” reasoning cuts both ways.
Namouni and Morais have not yet modeled the probability of an interstellar asteroid being captured into a stable retrograde orbit with Jupiter, and for that matter have not provided any detailed, step-by-step scenarios for how exactly this could occur.
Discovered in late 2014 via the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, the object was provisionally dubbed 2015 BZ509.
Nina Nepinak, 30, has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault and three counts of assault with a weapon.If confirmed, the discovery would open the possibility for robotic missions to visit and investigate a piece of another planetary system without ever leaving our stellar home. “This shows the solar system is home to objects which were born around other stars,” Morais contends.“Thus, matter in other star systems could influence the evolution of our own solar system.” That, in turn, would complicate the scenarios scientists have assembled to explain some of our solar system’s most fundamental mysteries, such as the detailed timing and mechanics of planet formation, the delivery of water and organic molecules to Earth, and even the genesis of life.According to Alberta Justice, Nepinak has 12 prior assault convictions dating back to 2009.This image, taken in 2005, shows the immediate aftermath of a collision between a probe and comet Tempel 1 during NASA's Deep Impact mission.