Get access

An optimal Mars Trojan asteroid search strategy




Trojan asteroids are minor planets that share the orbit of a planet about the Sun and librate around the L4 or L5 Lagrangian points of stability. Although only three Mars Trojans have been discovered, models suggest that at least 10 times this number should exist with diameters ≥1 km. We derive a model that constrains optimal sky search areas and present a strategy for the most efficient use of telescope survey time that maximizes the probability of detecting Mars Trojans. We show that the Gaia space mission could detect any Mars Trojans larger than 1 km in diameter, provided the relative motion perpendicular to Gaia’s CCD array is less than 0.40 arcsec s−1.