European astronomers “accidentally” spotted, through the James Webb Space Telescope, an asteroid the size of the Roman Colosseum in the main asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter.
And the US Space Agency (NASA) indicated, on Monday, February 06, 2023, that this asteroid, which ranges between one hundred and two hundred meters in width, is the smallest space object monitored by the space telescope to date.
“The asteroid was spotted by European astronomers by chance,” she added, in a statement, stressing the need to conduct other observations to better determine its nature and characteristics.
Thomas Muller, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, stated that “James Webb’s superior ability made it possible to monitor this object from a distance of more than one hundred million kilometers.”
The asteroid was discovered during the calibration of the “Miri” infrared monitoring camera, as a result of cooperation between Europeans and Americans.
The James Webb telescope, which is the most powerful of its kind ever, was launched into space via an Ariane 5 rocket, and entered service in July 2022. To date, it has been able to collect a large amount of data and take amazing pictures.
James Webb is stationed at a distance of about 1.5 million kilometers from the planet, and it is equipped with an amount of fuel that allows it to operate for 20 years.
One of James Webb’s $10 billion missions is to explore the early ages of the universe, as well as to search for exoplanets.
The telescope was not designed to search for small bodies such as the newly observed planet, but its discovery constitutes “an indication that it will monitor a large number of celestial bodies,” according to Mueller.