The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has discovered one of the smallest Main-belt asteroids known to date. Its diameter ranges from 100 to 200 meters.
The discovery was made during the calibration of the MIRI mid-infrared camera. To check the correctness of its filters, engineers aimed JWST at the asteroid (10920) 1998 BC1 discovered in 1998.
According to mission specialists, initially they considered the test unsuccessful due to the brightness of the target and the displacement of the telescope. But, despite this circumstance, later they decided to use the collected data to create and test a new technique for limiting the orbit of a celestial body and estimating its size. For this purpose, the engineers combined them with the results of observations made by ground-based telescopes and the Gaia Observatory.
During the subsequent analysis, the mission’s specialists found out that a previously unknown asteroid also came into MIRI’s field of view. Its diameter ranges from 100 to 200 meters, it is in an orbit with a very low inclination, which lies in the inner part of the Main Belt at a distance of over 100 million km from the orbit of our planet.
Currently, scientists are busy clarifying the characteristics of the orbit of the newly found object. To do this, they will need to collect more data about its position relative to the background stars.
In any case, the already available result means that even “unsuccessful” observations of JWST can have scientific benefits. The asteroid found today is one of the smallest objects of the Main Belt. The find may have important implications for our understanding of the formation and evolution of the Solar system. Modern models predict the presence of very small asteroids in the Main Belt. But due to the difficulties in detection and observation, they are studied much worse than their large analogues.
Moreover, if the discovery is confirmed, then JWST will also be able to contribute to the discovery of new asteroids. Mission specialists suspect that even short MIRI observations covering areas of the sky near the plane of the Solar System will always include several asteroids, most of which will be unknown objects.
Earlier we talked about how James Webb photographed a spiral galaxy a billion light-years from Earth.
According to https://www.nasa.gov
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