Astronomers believe that a bright asteroid near Earth may actually be an ancient piece of the moon.
The asteroid, known as Kamo’oalewa, can be seen every April. more recently, it was observed through the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona. There, the astronomers analyzed how light reflects off the block’s surface. These findings seem to suggest that the piece of rock may actually be an ancient piece of the moon.
Why do astronomers think the bright asteroid could be part of the moon?
The observations found that the asteroid’s spectra closely match those of moon rocks returned during NASA’s Apollo missions. Based on these observations, they believe the rock may have originally come from the moon. They published their findings and observations in Earth & Environment Communications on Thursday.
“We looked at the spectral behavior of asteroids that the scientific community has previously studied and couldn’t find a good match in any known library,” said Benjamin Sharkey, lead author of the study. Gizmodo. Sharkey says that after they couldn’t find a match, the astronomers then started looking at the lunar material to see if anything matched what they were seeing on the asteroid.
“We found that they provided a much more direct match with our observations,” he explained to Gizmodo.
Astronomers have also discovered other ways in which the asteroid’s surface matches the rocks recovered from the Apollo missions, including its location and how it orbits.
“A garden-like near-Earth asteroid is very unlikely to move spontaneously in a near-satellite orbit like that of Kamo’oalewa,” wrote Renu Malhotra, study co-author and planetary scientist at the University of Arizona. a Press release.
The origin of Kamo’oalewa
The PanSTARRS telescope originally discovered the asteroid in 2016. Its name alludes to the rotating visibility of the asteroid in the Earth’s sky. It is not part of the primary asteroid belt that lies between Jupiter and Mars. Instead, the 200-foot-long rock is close to the Earth. Essentially, it orbits the sun, but is closer to Earth than other asteroids discovered by scientists.
Every April, some telescopes can detect the asteroid as it completes its revolution. The Kamo’oalewa orbits approximately 9 million miles from Earth. The Moon itself is about 250,000 miles away at the farthest point in its orbit. The asteroid is still a long way off, but it’s closer than many other asteroids we’ve discovered out there.
Malhotra’s lab is working to determine the origins of the asteroid. This could reveal if, when and how he might have detached from the moon.