We may be following a missing piece of the moon

The Moon is the only natural satellite of the Earth, but many other celestial bodies preserve our planet, as it revolves around the Sun. From our point of view, it seems to orbit the Earth: in fact, it follows an orbit around our planet. A star that is why they are called “semi-satellites”. One such stone is Kamoʻoalewa, a stone with a maximum width of about 40 meters: it is very small and difficult to observe, so far we know very little about it.

New search recently published in the scientific journal Earth and Environment Communications, it is speculated that Kamoʻoalewa originated from the moon, and may have separated itself after colliding with another celestial body. The hypothesis will help explain some of its own characteristics, but not everyone is convinced yet.

469219 Kamoʻoalewa (or 2016 HO3, to use full name) fu Discover In 2016 from Pan_STARRS1, one of the telescopes used by the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii to discover and analyze celestial bodies, particularly asteroids. In the Hawaiian language, Kamoʻoalewa means “swinging orb.”

In its apparent orbit around the Earth, it approaches our planet at a distance of up to 14.5 million km, while in moments of maximum distance it is more than 40 million km away from us. So they are kept at a safe distance: they do not pose a danger, but at the same time they are difficult to notice.

Analysis of Kamoʻoalewa’s movements allowed this to count that the quasi-satellite began to acquire a relatively stable orbit about a century ago and that it will continue to orbit the Sun, with periodic encounters with Earth, for many more centuries. However, just knowing his movements would not have allowed us to accurately reconstruct Kamoʻoalewa’s origin.

Evolution through the centuries of 469,219 Kamoʻoalewa (pink) and Earth (blue) orbit around the sun (Wikimedia)

In early 2017, when Earth was between the Sun and Kamoʻoalewa, the quasi-satellite was well lit by our star, an ideal time to make more precise observations. A group of astronomers used two telescopes in Arizona to study how sunlight is reflected, thus recreating its composition.

As they explain in their study, astronomers note the presence of silicates, a class of minerals common in our solar system, with properties very similar to those on the Moon. At first the research authors thought they had made some mistakes, because they expected to determine the composition of Kamoʻoalewa similar to that typical of asteroids. Subsequent analyzes, some of which were made before the summer, confirmed the observations, strengthening the hypothesis of the lunar origin of the semi-satellite.

Kamoʻoalewa may have formed after another small orb that collided with the moon passed, causing a small part to jump. There are also three other celestial bodies within a short (astronomically speaking) distance from Earth with Kamoʻoalewa-like properties that may have originated from the same collision.

However, confirming the hypothesis formulated in the research is not easy, and the authors themselves acknowledge the possibility of other explanations. Kamoʻoalewa may not have anything to do with the Moon, which is simply a rather strange asteroid, with a composition reminiscent of that of our own satellite. A quasi-satellite could have been part of a larger asteroid, which ended up in a different orbit after the Sun’s gravity.

To get more tangible items, it would be necessary to go and see how Kamoʻoalewa is made right away. Fortunately for researchers, China has in a program To visit Kamoʻoalewa on a space mission in the next few years. The probe will take some samples from the surface of the celestial body and take them back to Earth, where they can be analyzed and compared with those taken over time on lunar flights.

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Maggie Benson

"Bacon trailblazer. Certified coffee maven. Zombie lover. Tv specialist. Freelance communicator."

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