Why is everyone talking about Zoozve, the first quasar in the solar system?

Why is everyone talking about Zoozve, the first quasar in the solar system?

The X (Twitter) thread was shared widely over the weekend, with Radiolab host Latif Nasir explaining how he investigated the mystery of the moon labeled “Zoozve” on his two-year-old’s astronomy poster.

After noticing the poster, he of course Googled it, and found the NASA-confirmed fact that Venus has no moons.

Further Googling found no references to “Zoozve,” and a friend at NASA had no idea what she was referring to either. Nasser contacted the painter, who swore that he had taken the name from a list of moons in the solar system.

To cut a long (but fun!) story short, Nasser’s friend at NASA (Liz Landau) I realized what happened. It wasn’t the planet Zoozve, it was the object 2002 VE 68. When space objects are first seen, they are given a provisional name based on when they were discovered. The first part of the number, as you may have guessed, relates to the year.

“The provisional designation includes the year of their discovery followed by two letters indicating the order in which they were discovered during that year. Objects discovered between January 1 and 15 are identified in the order in which they were discovered, AA, AB, AC, and thus those discovered in the period Between 16 and 31 January they were given the letters BA, BB, BC, etc., adding that the letter J was not used. “The final discoveries of the year, between 16 and 31 December, bear designations in the series YA, YB, YC.”

This object is more interesting than the standard space rock because it was the first of its kind ever discovered, due to its unusual orbit.

“Like all asteroids, its orbit revolves around the Sun, with the asteroids closest to the Sun orbiting more quickly and completing a ‘year’ in a shorter time. The ‘year’ in VE68 is shorter than an Earth year, as it is recorded at a rate of 100%,” Turla Observatory explained in a 2004 press release. That’s “just under 225 days”.

“This is roughly the same ‘year’ as Venus – and it turns out that like the synchronized divers at the Olympics, both VE68 and Venus travel roughly around the Sun.”

By tracking the orbit of 2002, they discovered the first quasars, or quasatellites, in the solar system. Quasars, as their name suggests, are not quite moons. It orbits the sun, but is also affected by the planets along its path.

Since the discovery of 2002 VE, other quasoons have been discovered. Although these moons can come and go, Earth has two officially recognized moons.

2002 VE has been orbiting the Sun and facing Venus for a long time, but the team that first described its orbit thinks it may have come from elsewhere.

“Our calculations show that it has been in its current orbital state for about seven thousand years and will remain there for another five centuries to come,” the team wrote in their paper. “Intense proximity of Venus and Mercury within the time frame of reliable numerical calculation of the orbit has been ruled out, but frequent encounters with Earth occur. From the evolution of the orbit of this object, we conclude that it was probably an object.” A near-Earth asteroid that was injected into its current orbit about 7,000 years ago by Earth.”

A subsequent paper, after further observations, found the possibility of close encounters with Earth, as well as a very complex orbital path.

“We find that 2002 VE68 will remain a quasi-satellite of Venus for about another 500 years, and that its dynamical evolution is controlled not only by Earth, with a negligible contribution from the Moon, but by Mercury as well.” The team wrote. “2002 VE68 exhibits resonant (or near-resonant) behavior with Mercury, Venus and Earth. Our calculations indicate that an actual collision with Earth within the next 10,000 years is highly unlikely, but encounters as close as 0.04 AU occur with a periodicity of 8 years.”

(h/t: Radiolab)

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