There appears to be a fragment of the Moon orbiting close to Earth

There seems to be a fragment of the Moon in orbit very close around the Earth : Scientists and astronomers have been observing the celestial body with dimensions comparable to that of a Ferris wheel, called Kamo`oalewa, for years now, but only yesterday research published in Nature has brought convincing evidence that it is not a common asteroid, as previously thought.

The research was led by Ben Sharkey, PhD student at the University of Arizona, who focused on the analysis of the spectrum, or the way in which the celestial body reflects light, using the Large Binocular Telescope located right in Arizona. Sharkey and his team found that the results did not resemble those of any other known asteroid, but were instead very similar to those obtained from the soil samples. lunar brought to Earth by NASA’s various Apollo missions. The research is summarized in a few lines, but for the team it meant years of observations and work. The project even started in 2016: it took a long time to build a sufficiently concrete database to draw reliable conclusions.

new paper is live! the results of a five-year campaign to observe and characterize quasi-satellite of the Earth. the paper is quite short and direct, without a paywall, so give it a look!

– ben (@benjaminsharkey) November 11, 2021

There are other details that suggest the lunar origin of Kamo`oalewa. One of these is the angle of its orbit around our planet: according to the researchers it is very unlikely that normal asteroids orbiting very close to the Earth will end up there in a “natural” way. This particular angle is also the reason why Kamo`oalewa only appears in the sky once a year , more or less around the month of April. The “quasi-satellite” (official classification) will not stay with us forever: according to the most reliable calculations, it has arrived at its current position 500 years ago about and will go away among others 300 (always ” about “, of course).

The big point still to be clarified is how did a piece of the Moon come off and get where it arrived . It will be difficult to find an answer, because there is no precedent: Kamo`oalewa is in effect the first near-Earth asteroid of probable lunar origin, so there are no models to compare it to. It remains to be seen whether this type of celestial body is actually relatively common or an anomaly.

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