Earth has ‘minimoons,’ and they may solve asteroid mysteries ZlotoNews

Earth has ‘minimoons,’ and they may solve asteroid mysteries ZlotoNews

Researchers believe that the minimoons could help scientists in their research for the next decades. To date, only one mini-moon has ever been discovered. However, there should be more of them unidentified by instruments because they're too small (some are just 1-2 meters in diameter). According to Jedicke: "Once we start finding mini-moons at a greater rate they will be ideal targets for satellite missions". "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. However, in a new study, scientists suggest that Earth has other "mini-moons". The rocks slingshot themselves back into space after appearing in the sky.

While you might think that the moon is our only natural satellite, this is certainly not the case, reveals an exciting study published earlier this year in the journal Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences.

"The challenge lies in finding these small objects, despite their close proximity", he added.

We refer to them as either temporarily captured objects (TCO) or temporarily captured flybys (TCF) depending on whether they make at least one revolution around Earth (the definition will be refined in section 3). The rogue asteroid which was captured by the planet's gravity proved to be a great finding.

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The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will be capable of detecting the largest natural mini-moons and will also detect a substantial number of NEOs that could be artificially induced into becoming mini-moons but the real future for mining asteroids awaits an affordable space-based detection system. 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.

But the scientists - an global team from several USA universities and three European countries, Finland, Sweden, and Spain - believe there could be many more just like it in Earth's orbit, waiting to be discovered.

"We don't know whether small asteroids are monolithic blocks of rock, fragile sand piles, or something in between", co-author Mikael Granvik, a planetary scientist at the Luleå University of Technology, in Sweden, and the University of Helsinki, said in the statement. On the other hand, the latter just stay at the planet for a short time before it flies away.

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