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Damocles


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Asteroid 5335, a body with an unusual orbit that takes it from near the orbit of Mars out beyond the orbit of Uranus, discovered in 1991 by the Scottish-born Australian astronomer Robert Houston McNaught (1956– ). On the basis of its orbit, which has a period of 40.7 years and a high inclination, it would probably have been classed as a comet had it shown a trace of a coma or hint of a tail. However, Damocles appears to be a bare rocky body, although it could be an extinct Halley-family comet. Its diameter is estimated at 12 km. Although Damocles’ present orbit does not cross that of the Earth, in a few tens of thousands of years from now it may well do so due to planetary perturbations. Currently its semimajor axis is 11.84 AU, perihelion 1.59 AU, aphelion 22.09 AU, and inclination 61°.7. It was last at perihelion in 1990.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.


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