A survey of orbits of co-orbitals of Mars

Martin Connors, Greg Stacey, Ramon Brasser, Paul Wiegert

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Many asteroids with a semimajor axis close to that of Mars have been discovered in the last several years. Potentially some of these could be in 1:1 resonance with Mars, much as are the classic Trojan asteroids with Jupiter, and its lesser-known horseshoe companions with Earth. In the 1990s, two Trojan companions of Mars, 5261 Eureka and 1998 VF31, were discovered, librating about the L5 Lagrange point, 60° behind Mars in its orbit. Although several other potential Mars Trojans have been identified, our orbital calculations show only one other known asteroid, 1999 UJ7, to be a Trojan, associated with the L4 Lagrange point, 60°ahead of Mars in its orbit. We further find that asteroid 36017 (1999 ND43) is a horseshoe librator, alternating with periods of Trojan motion. This asteroid makes repeated close approaches to Earth and has a chaotic orbit whose behavior can be confidently predicted for less than 3000 years. We identify two objects, 2001 HW15 and 2000 TG2, within the resonant region capable of undergoing what we designate "circulation transition", in which objects can pass between circulation outside the orbit of Mars and circulation inside it, or vice versa. The eccentricity of the orbit of Mars appears to play an important role in circulation transition and in horseshoe motion. Based on the orbits and on spectroscopic data, the Trojan asteroids of Mars may be primordial bodies, while some co-orbital bodies may be in a temporary state of motion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-624
Number of pages8
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - May 2005


  • Co-orbital asteroid
  • Horseshoe orbit
  • Mars Trojan
  • Three-body problem


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