Apollo and Atira
Asteroid 2022 YG was discovered in December last year and is now included in the Minor Planet Center circular describing the celestial object. It is he who is recognized by the international astronomical community as a quasi-satellite of the Earth. The prefix “quasi”, probably because this satellite is small, only about 20 – 30 meters in diameter, and it will not accompany our planet forever, so it will not reach the Moon. The fact is that all near-Earth asteroids are divided into four classes: Atyrs, Atons, Cupids and Apollos. Opened by Crimea 2022 YG is one of the last. This means that its orbit is further from the Sun than from Earth, it is elongated, and at maximum distance, the object is 0.3 astronomical units or 50 million kilometers from Earth.
– It revolves around the Sun, but together with the Earth and at the same time around the Earth. According to calculations, this quasi-satellite was captured by our planet around the 60s of the last century, and for about two hundred years it will continue to rotate with us in tandem, and then go further, an amateur astronomer said. – Earth’s gravity is not enough to hold it with its attraction forever.
And already at the beginning of this year, Crimea discovered another Atira-class asteroid. Even at the most distant point in their orbit, these asteroids are closer to the Sun than Earth is at the closest point in their orbit. It is extremely difficult to detect them, because the observation must be made against the sun.
– It is difficult for amateurs to discover such an asteroid. There are fewer of them openly than twice as many comets. These asteroids are practically within the Earth’s orbit, says Gennady Borisov. – They cross it a little, fly out of Earth’s orbit, and at that moment I caught it.
The latest discoveries of an amateur astronomer: the asteroids 2022 YG and 2023 BU are already included in the English Wikipedia. Soon they will appear in the Russian version of the open encyclopedia. In just a couple of months of observation, the Crimean discovered 14 new asteroids, and taking into account his previous discoveries, there are already 20 such celestial bodies in his collection. In addition to scientific interest, the search for asteroids is of great practical importance. Scientists estimate that there are approximately 6,200 asteroids orbiting very close to Earth. Today, no one needs to be convinced that our planet in the past experienced catastrophes on a cosmic scale as a result of collisions with celestial bodies. Therefore, in our time there are several international early warning programs for the approach of asteroids and other potentially dangerous space objects to Earth.
“Maybe something will be discovered long before it gets close to Earth, although of course this requires big telescopes and serious international programs,” says an amateur astronomer. – It is difficult to compete with them. They discover several thousand near-Earth asteroids a year.
11 Borisov sisters
Gennady Borisov is also known for the fact that in August 2019 he discovered the first interstellar comet known to date. Before that, scientists had recorded the only interstellar traveler: the asteroid Oumuamua. Therefore, when the sensational discovery of the Crimean amateur astronomer was confirmed, all the world’s telescopes, including the Hubble spacecraft, were pointed at comet 2I/Borisov. At the time of discovery, the wanderer was in the constellation Cassiopeia. Then “RG” was one of the first to congratulate the Crimea on this event.
Another hobby of an amateur astronomer is collecting old telescopes, binoculars, spyglasses. Photo: Sergey Vinnik / RG
– I saw this moving object and suspected that it was a little diffuse (blurred. – Approx. ed.), Not a point. And it moves somehow wrong, – Borisov told RG. – It turned out a strange orbit. The first thing that came to mind was that I sent the wrong measurements. But as the number of observatories observing this object increased, it became clear that this comet was unique.
By the way, comets, unlike asteroids and other celestial bodies, are always named after their discoverers. Therefore, 11 Borisov sisters now rush to infinity in the starry sky, differing in the catalog only by the assigned indices. And, yes, amateur astronomers get paid to discover comets, and only comets. The monetary reward is $3,000, but prestige is valued far more than money, as evidenced by a special commemorative plaque. In 1998, the Edgar Wilson International Award was instituted, which until 2014 was awarded to only five of our compatriots. But among amateur astronomers around the world, today only two people have discovered more comets than the Russian Gennady Borisov. This is the American Donald Macholz, who represented 13 comets, and the Australian William A. Bradfield, 18 comets.
Gennady makes all his discoveries in telescopes of his own design, which he calls “plywood.” Now the astronomer has two and each one costs about the same as a middle-class car. As for the “plywood” ones, this is, of course, a joke, because in fact both telescopes are of the highest level both in optics and in electronics, because they were created by an engineer of the highest qualification. In which the interstellar comet was discovered, Gennady sent to modernize and discovered the quasi-satellite of Earth in his new telescope.
– This new one has a smaller diameter – 50 centimeters. But he stands on a good mount, he turns quickly, I did the automation, so far it is easier for me to observe him, ”says Borisov. – And I will modernize the 65-centimeter one, while it loses a little to this fifty-centimeter one. He loses by 10 percent, but he should win.
The passion for the stars came to Gennady at school, and already at the age of 15 he observed the night sky through a telescope, assembled with his own hands. Then there was the astronomical department of the physics department of Moscow State University. State Astronomical Institute. Sternberg became the first workplace. In the 1990s, Gennady became interested in astrophotography, photographing nebulae, galaxies, and comets. The era of digital technologies had not yet come, and in order to improve the sensitivity of Kodakov’s film, the astronomer Borisov made a device for its hypersensitization. Little by little, the desire to design, create their own telescopes overcame astronomy, and the scientist became a professional engineer. Now the telescopes he has designed are operating all over the world from Kamchatka to Latin America. And the passion for the stars remained a hobby, which the engineer Borisov himself compares with fishing.
– It’s like fishermen, they don’t have a goal, to catch something to get ahead of the whole world. Although, of course, deep down you are counting on some really interesting result, says Gennady. – For some time I will observe near-Earth asteroids, then I will return to comets. Or maybe I can come up with a program that can catch slow objects, turtles, and some fast ones with a single observation.
Another hobby of an amateur astronomer is collecting old telescopes, binoculars, spyglasses. Last year, the collection was replenished with a 130-year-old copper spyglass from the French company MaisonBardou. But, like all old things, optical instruments need maintenance, balancing and adjustment, and the master simply does not have enough time for this.
In January 1801, the Italian scientist Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the first asteroid named Ceres. It is also the largest known to science: its diameter is 960 kilometers, which is why Ceres is also known as the minor planets. It is impossible to count all the asteroids in the solar system, presumably there are several million of them, but science has recorded only a little more than 3500 comets.
In the entire history of space observation, only three asteroids have made a potentially dangerous approach to Earth:
2004 FU 162 – flew a distance of 6,535 km on March 31, 2014;
2008 TS 26 – Approached 6,150 km on 9 October 2008;
2009 VA – turned out to be at a distance of 14 thousand km from Earth on November 6, 2009;