An object, discovered by the American astronomer Charles Thomas Kowal (1940-)
in 1977, that was originally classified as an asteroid but is now considered
to be a Centaur or a weakly active comet
(95P/Chiron); its eccentric orbit brings it within the orbit of Saturn
at perihelion and almost as far away
as the orbit of Uranus at aphelion.
Its cometary status was suspected following the 1989 discovery of a dusty
coma and confirmed in 1991 by the detection
of cyanogen (CN) radicals, a known constituent of cometary gas comas.
Because Chiron moves in a chaotic, planet-crossing orbit, it is likely in
time to collide with a planet or be permanently ejected from the Solar System.
In Greek mythology, Chiron (or Cheiron) was the most famous of the Centaurs,
son of Cronos and Philyra, and husband of Naïs and Chariclo. He lived
in Pelion, and was famous for his skill in healing, hunting, music, and
prophecy. Achilles and other heroes were his pupils. He died by being accidentally
wounded by one of the poisoned arrows of his friend Hercules.
ASTEROIDS, CENTAURS, AND KUIPER BELT OBJECTS