Posted: Nov 11, 2021 23:32 GMT
The rock has a diameter of just 58 meters and was discovered in 2016 using a Hawaiian telescope.
An international team of astronomers published a study Thursday in the journal Nature Communications that suggests that a tiny asteroid orbiting our planet is actually a fragment that broke off the Moon billions of years ago.
The rock has a diameter of barely 58 meters and was discovered in 2016 using the PanSTARRS telescope in Hawaii. Astronomers called it Kamo’oalewa, a Hawaiian word meaning “swaying celestial shard.”
Kamo’oalewa is a quasi-satellite, objects that orbit the Sun but also orbit close enough to Earth to be seen. Every April, Kamo’oalewa approaches our planet up to approximately 14.4 million kilometers (almost 40 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon), at which point researchers can observe it using powerful telescopes.
By analyzing the faint patterns of light that Kamo’oalewa reflects on its surface, the authors of the new study found that this spectrum of light matched almost perfectly with that of lunar samples collected by NASA’s Apollo missions. which suggests that the asteroid may be a loose piece of lunar debris.
On the other hand, the orbit of the Kamo’oalewa is remarkably similar to that of the Earth, something atypical among the rocks that usually approach our planet from the outer solar system.
“This spectrum is indicative of a silicate-based composition, but with a reddening beyond what is typically seen among asteroids in the inner solar system. We compared the spectrum with that of various analogous materials and concluded that the best combination is with lunar-like silicates“The researchers explain.” This interpretation implies great spatial erosion and raises the possibility that Kamo’oalewa may contain lunar material. “
If this theory is confirmed, Kamo’oalewa would become the first near-Earth space object with a known lunar origin and could help shed light on the history of our planet and our natural satellite.
Astronomers have 300 years approximately to solve this mystery, since after that time it is estimated that Kamo’oalewa will finally break free from its current orbit and will be lost in deep space.