On the possible values of the orbit distance between a near-earth asteroid and the earth

  • Gronchi G
  • Valsecchi G
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We consider all the possible trajectories of a near-Earth asteroid (NEA), corresponding to the whole set of heliocentric orbital elements with perihelion distance q ≤ 1.3 au and eccentricity e ≤ 1 (NEA class). For these hypothetical trajectories, we study the range of the values of the distance from the trajectory of the Earth (assumed on a circular orbit) as a function of selected orbital elements of the asteroid. The results of this geometric approach are useful to explain some aspects of the orbital distribution of the known NEAs. We also show that the maximal orbit distance between an object in the NEA class and the Earth is attained by a parabolic orbit, with apsidal line orthogonal to the ecliptic plane. It turns out that the threshold value of q for the NEA class (qmax = 1.3 au) is very close to a critical value, below which the above result is not valid. `Nothing was visible, nor could be visible, to us, except Straight Lines', E. A. Abbott, Flatland.

Author-supplied keywords

  • General
  • Surveys-Celestial mechanics-Minor planets, asteroids

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  • G. F. Gronchi

  • G. B. Valsecchi

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