Groups of minor planets

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An asteroid group or minor planet group is a population of minor planets that have a share broadly similar orbits. Members are generally unrelated to each other, unlike in an asteroid family, which often results from the break-up of a single asteroid. It is customary to name a group of asteroids after the first member of that group to be discovered, which is often the largest.

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Groups out to the orbit of Earth

There are relatively few asteroids that orbit close to the Sun. Several of these groups are hypothetical at this point in time, with no members having yet been discovered; as such, the names they have been given are provisional.

  • Vulcanoid asteroids are hypothetical asteroids with an aphelion less than 0.4 AU, i.e., they orbit entirely within the orbit of Mercury. A few searches for Vulcanoids have been conducted but there have been none discovered so far.
  • Apoheles are asteroids whose aphelion is less than 0.983 AU, meaning they orbit entirely within Earth's orbit. Other proposed names for this group are Inner-Earth Objects or Interior Earth Objects [1] (IEOs) and Anons (as in "Anonymous"). As of March 2008 there are only five known Apoheles with an arc of observations greater than 20 days: (163693) Atira, (164294) 2004 XZ130, 2004 JG6, 2005 TG45 and 2006 WE4; while there are other four possible candidates, but with a too short arc of observations: 1998 DK36, 2006 KZ39, 2007 EB26 and 2008 EA32.
  • Mercury-crosser asteroids having a perihelion smaller than Mercury's 0.3075 AU.
  • Venus-crosser asteroids having a perihelion smaller than Venus's 0.7184 AU. This group includes the above Mercury-crossers (if their aphelion is greater than Venus's perihelion. All known Mercury crossers satisfy this condition).
  • Earth-crosser asteroids having a perihelion smaller than Earth's 0.9833 AU. This group includes the above Mercury- and Venus-crossers, apart from the Apoheles. They are also divided into the
  • Arjuna asteroids are somewhat vaguely defined as having orbits similar to Earth's; i.e., with an average orbital radius of around 1 AU and with low eccentricity and inclination. Due to the vagueness of this definition some asteroids belonging to the Apohele, Amor, Apollo or Aten groups can also be classified as Arjunas. The term was introduced by Spacewatch and does not refer to an existing asteroid; examples of Arjunas include 1991 VG.
  • Earth Trojans are asteroids located in the Earth-Sun Lagrangian points L4 and L5. Their location in the sky as observed from Earth's surface would be fixed at about 60 degrees east and west of the Sun, and as people tend to search for asteroids at much greater elongations few searches have been done in these locations. No Earth trojans are currently known.
  • Near-Earth asteroids is a catch-all group for asteroids whose orbit closely approaches that of Earth. It includes almost all of the above groups, as well as the Amor asteroids.

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