What about the mysterious asteroid Kamo’Oleva, which orbits the Sun in a similar orbit to Earth? Analysis of its reflected light spectrum now suggests that the celestial body is composed of the same material as the Moon. Scientists say it is possible that Kamoaleva was formed from fragments of a former asteroid impact on our satellite.
The Earth–Moon system runs through space in the neighborhood of many smaller celestial bodies: our Solar System has a spectacular society of so-called near-Earth asteroids. Some of them are traveling in special orbits: they orbit the Sun in the same way as the Earth. That’s why they are called quasi-satellites. Little is known about these near-Earth objects, as they are only very weakly illuminated and therefore difficult to observe.
In 2016, astronomers added the asteroid Kaomo’olewa to a well-known quasi-satellite: the PanSTARRS telescope in Hawaii was able to capture its fine luminosity, which is about four million times fainter than the faintest stars that the human eye can do. can. Look up at the night sky. According to statistics, the diameter of Kamoaleva is up to about 100 meters. It orbits the Sun in an orbit that is only slightly different from Earth’s and takes about a year in one orbit. With the current constellation, it always comes closest to Earth in April. The closest approximation is about 15 million kilometers.
Interesting pattern in a faint flicker
To learn more about Kamoaleva, researchers working with Benjamin Sharkey from the University of Arizona in Tucson took a closer look at her. The Large Binocular Telescope and the Lowell Discovery Telescope, located in Arizona, were used. Their high sensitivity to light enabled the spectral analysis of weak light reflected from the small celestial body. Based on the pattern of wavelengths, it was possible to compare certain physical properties as well as with the signatures of the light spectrum of other celestial objects, the scientists explain.
As they report, it emerged from the analysis that the composition of Kamoaleva is characterized by silicate content. Scientists say a slight change in the red color spectrum separates Kamo’Oleva from other asteroids in the inner solar system with known signatures. “I’ve looked at every near-Earth asteroid spectrum we had access to and none of them matched the results,” Sharkey says. However, further comparison showed that the patterns of light reflected from Kamo’Oleva agree with those of lunar rocks, whose characteristics are known from samples from NASA’s Apollo missions.
Moon’s debris body?
As the researchers point out, the discovery now sheds light on the possible origins of this asteroid, particularly one with an Earth-like orbit. “The reflection spectrum of Kamoaleva supports the explanation that it was formed from debris from the Moon,” write the scientists. In particular, an asteroid could have once struck the Moon, throwing material far away, leading to the formation of Kamo’Olewa.
The investigation of Kamoaleva’s orbit as part of the study also supports the asteroid’s origin in the Earth-Moon system. It differs from Earth by only a slight inclination and is in a special orphanage to near-Earth asteroids. “It is highly unlikely that a typical near-Earth asteroid would spontaneously spin into a quasi-satellite orbit like Kamo’Oleva,” explains co-author Renu Malhotra from the University of Arizona.
However, some questions about the interesting celestial body still remain unanswered. That’s why astronomers want to keep an eye on that.
Source: University of Arizona, Article: Communications Earth and Environment, doi: 10.1038/s43247-021-00303-7
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