Astronomers have found more evidence that Earth is nearby asteroid It is a piece ejected from the moon.
Asteroid Kamo’oalewa — a Hawaiian name meaning “swinging part” — is a Ferris wheel-sized chunk of rock that orbits 9 million miles (14.4 million kilometers) from Earth every April.
Since the discovery of the object in 2016, scientists have puzzled over the origins of the strange rock, and were surprised when a 2021 analysis revealed that the Kamuawalewa Formation is looks like the moon.
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Now, a new study was published October 23 in the journal Earth and Environment CommunicationsIt describes a possible way in which an ancient asteroid impact could have diverted the space rock on its current path, and suggests that there may be more pieces of the Moon floating around the solar system.
Two unusual orbital features attracted astronomers to investigate Kamo’oalewa. First, as a “semi-satellite” of Earth, it is so close to our planet that it appears to orbit it, even though its actual orbital partner is the sun. Second, the asteroid is expected to remain near Earth for millions of years, while many near-Earth objects only exist for decades.
These anomalies prompted astronomers to analyze the asteroid’s spectra in 2021. They found that light emitted and absorbed by Kamualoa indicated that the asteroid was likely made of moon rock.
“We only looked at Kamualoa’s spectrum because it was in an unusual orbit,” Malhotra said. “If it had been a typical near-Earth asteroid, no one would have thought to find its spectrum, and we would not have known that Kamowalewa could be part of the moon.”
By simulating the impacts of asteroids on the Moon and the gravitational forces that the ejected pieces would experience, the researchers found a small probability that some of the rocks would end up in near-Earth orbits. Before doing the calculations, astronomers expected that most of the lunar material released would either land back on the Moon or rain down on Earth, and not end up in a distant orbit around the Sun.
The researchers said their findings could give them a better understanding Dangerous asteroids near Earth. Their next steps will be to find out what conditions could have propelled the rock into its orbit and to find out exactly when the collision occurred.
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