Comet Makes a Pit Stop Near Jupiter's Asteroids
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© by Zane B. Stein


Perhaps the most interesting of the unnamed Centaurs is 471325 (2011 KT19), because IT HAS A RETROGRADE ORBIT! Let that sink in...unlike apparent retrograde motion, this body actually moves backwards through the zodiac! Astronomers have given it a nickname, Niku.

And here's interesting news. For years, it has been speculated that many Centaurs may be cometary, but only one, Chiron, has ever shown any coma. However, in December 2005, it was announced that Centaur Echeclus (60558) has now shown a coma extending about 20 arcsec from the nucleus. No decision has been made to redesignate it a comet. It therefore stands in the same category as Chiron as a comet with centaur status. Are these two unique in having coma's, or will we be seeing more of this activity amongst the Centaurs? And if it is relatively rare....could it be indicative of something the two bodies have in common astrologically?

Not to be forgotten is Comet P/2019 (LD2) (also known as Comet P/2019 LD2 (ATLAS)). According to NASA, "The unexpected visitor belongs to a class of icy bodies found in space between Jupiter and Neptune. Called "Centaurs," they become active for the first time when heated as they approach the Sun, and dynamically transition into becoming more comet-like." This Centaur/comet has made a temporary stop among the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter, but is quite spectacular. Its tail is around 400,000 miles long! I don't have an emphemeris for it but you can read more about it here: Comet Makes a Pit Stop Near Jupiter's Asteroids

How many Centaurs are there now?
Counting Chiron, there are 97 so far with official numbers, and who knows how many unnumbered ones.

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