Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Earth has 'minimoons,' and they may solve asteroid mysteries

Earth Is Surrounded By A Swarm Of Lightning Fast Earth’s Minimoons Can Help Scientists Learn More About Asteroids
Sandra Phillips | 20 August, 2018, 02:09

Well, for one thing, they break the solitude of the moon, proving our planet is frequently orbited by more than just one object. To date, only one mini-moon has ever been discovered.

Researchers believe that the minimoons could help scientists in their research for the next decades.

Some mini-moons may fly past Earth, while others complete a revolution around the planet before either escaping its orbit or entering its atmosphere, scientists say. "The LSST is the dream instrument for discovering tiny, fast-moving asteroids, and we expect it will regularly discover temporarily captured objects within the next five years", Jedicke said. The objects are usually between 1-2 meters in size and have been hard to detect because they move out of Earth's orbit so quickly. As an homage to the Moon and Austin Powers we usually refer to TCOs and TCFs as "mini-moons" though, to be more precise based on their relative diameters, they may more accurately be considered micro-moons. The rocks slingshot themselves back into space after appearing in the sky.

"Minimoons can provide interesting science and technology testbeds in near-Earth space", said study lead author Robert Jedicke, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, Honolulu.

"The challenge lies in finding these small objects, despite their close proximity", he added. According to them, this could give scientists a chance to explore the life cycle of asteroids.

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The study stated and the first mini-moon was seen 12 years ago. The rogue asteroid which was captured by the planet's gravity proved to be a great finding. Called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), it's created to excel at tracking temporary events in the sky. If this would happen, researchers can study the mini-moons and use their discoveries as a basis for the movements of asteroids in the solar system.

The worldwide team studying this phenomenon believes there's probably a few of these mini-moons orbiting the Earth at any given time.

"We do not know whether these small asteroids are monolithic blocks of stone, fragile clods of sand or something in between", admits Dr. Mikael Granvik, author of the Technological University of Lulea in Sweden and the University of Helsinki in Finland.

They're only with us for a short time and then, just like the attractive human being that was Vern Troyer, they move on to find another place in the cosmos.

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