The asteroid discovery is supported by the existence of a dusty field of space debris in Venus’ orbit of the Sun. The dusty ring was first discovered by NASA’s Helios space probes in 2007 and later confirmed in 2013. Earth was found to barrel through a similar ring of dust 25 years ago, the source of which was traced to the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. This has prompted NASA astronomer Petr Pokorny to study Venus’ orbit for the origin of its very own dust ring.
Together with research partner Marc Kuchner, the astronomer hypothesised the dust ring was formed by never-before-detected asteroids around Venus.
By modelling the orbits of more than 10 million dust particles around the planet, the scientist traced their starting point to some 800 space rocks, which likely have survived till today.
The researchers presented their findings in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on Match 12, 2019.
Dr Kuchner said: “I think the most exciting thing about this result is it suggests a new population of asteroids that probably holds clues to how the solar system formed.”
If the astronomers can directly observe the asteroids around Venus, the discovery will shed light onto the earliest days of Earth’s and Venus’ history.
NASA also said direct observations could unlock clues about the chemical composition and “diversity” of the solar system.
Venus’ dust ring is estimated to measure an incredible 16 million miles (25.7 million km) from top to bottom and six million miles (9.6 million km) from side to side.
The dust ring is littered with particles, which are no larger than the grains on course sandpaper.
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NASA said: “Using a dozen different modelling tools to simulate how dust moves around the solar system, Pokorny modelled all the dust sources he could think of, looking for a simulated Venus ring that matched the observations.
“The list of all the sources he tried sounds like a roll call of all the rocky objects in the solar system: Main Belt asteroids, Oort Cloud comets, Halley-type comets, Jupiter-family comets, recent collisions in the asteroid belt.”
However, none of the proposed models worked, until the two researchers thought of a unique group of asteroids near Venus.
The new asteroids, would orbit the planet from a relatively large distance and often on the side of the Sun.
This proves problematic because it makes it harder for Earth’s telescope to observe the asteroids without direct interference from the Sun.
Dr Pokorny said: “We thought we’d discovered this population of asteroids, but then had to prove it and show it works.
“We got excited, but then you realise, ‘Oh, there’s so much work to do.’”
But if something does exist in orbit around Venus, the scientist said: “We should be able to find it”.