Astronomers at Caltech have made an interesting discovery using the Caltech Zwicky Transient Facility or ZTF. ZTF is a survey camera that is based at the Palomar observatory. What the researchers have discovered is a new asteroid, dubbed 2020 AV2, that orbits entirely within the orbit of Venus. The scientist say the only way the asteroid will ever get out of its orbit is if it is flung out via a gravitational encounter with Mercury or Venus.
Scientists say that more likely; the asteroid will eventually crash into Mercury or Venus. 2020 AV2 is a small class of asteroid know as Atiras, which are objects that fall within the orbit of the Earth. More specifically, the asteroid is the first Vatira asteroid with the “V” standing for Venus. Vatira asteroids were only hypothesized until now and fall entirely inside the orbit of Venus.
The ZTF camera is particularly good at finding asteroids because of its ability to scan the entire sky rapidly. Its speed allows it to capture asteroids during their short appearances at night. Vatira asteroids orbit so close to the Sun they are only visible at dusk or dawn. 2020 AV2 is the thrid Atira discovered by ZTF as part of the twilight program. It was discovered and first designated ZTF09k5 and flagged as a candidate on January 4, 2020.
The asteroid is 1 to 3 kilometers and has an elongated orbit tilted about 15 degrees relative to the plane of our solar system. It has a 151-day orbit around the Sun, and it always orbits interior to Venus. At its closest approach to the Sun, it comes close to the orbit of Mercury. Scientists believe that an encounter with a planet likely threw the asteroid into Venus’ orbit.