Earth has a ‘second moon’ that can be observed every April

Little is known about quasi-satellites, small bodies in the solar system that orbit the star king and remain close to Earth. However, members of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona managed to collect more information from the 469219 rock. Kamoʻoalewa, a ‘second Moon‘of our planet which “is in a favorable position for observations once a year around April,” according to a study uploaded to Nature Communications.

In that month, Kamoʻoalewa becomes bright enough that the telescopes of the Land can grasp it and study it. Although it was discovered in 2016, it was not until April 2021 that the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and the Lowell Discovery Telescope (LDT) better evaluated the physical characteristics of the astronomical object and its affinity with other asteroids.

It has been shown by observational analyzes that Kamoʻoalewa adopts a light pattern very similar to the moon rocks of the Apollo missions; therefore, the researchers suggest that the object is made of the same material as Earth’s natural satellite. Even one of the authors of the article, the astronomer Ben Sharkey, specified that they compared its spectrum (distribution of radiated energy) with asteroids close to Earth’s orbit and this did not coincide.

There are various explanations for the origin of this quasi-satellite of the Earth. The first, according to the article cited above, and the simplest, is that it was captured by gravity like the other objects near our planet.

The second possibility is that it belongs to a population of Trojan asteroids on Earth, that is, they share orbit with it near the Lagrange points – gravitational equilibrium places of two massive bodies such as the Sun and the Earth – called L4 and L5. , where there is greater stability of matter and space dust.

A third possibility is that Kamoʻoalewa originates from the Earth-Moon system, perhaps as an impact ejection from the lunar surface.”, The authors of the manuscript described online; In other words, it is a piece shot into space from a violent and unknown event.

“Three near-Earth objects, 2020 PN1, 2020 PP1 and 2020 KZ2, have been identified whose orbital parameters approximate those of Kamoʻoalewa enough that they can be companions,” Sharkey added.

On the other hand, planetary scientist Renu Malhotra from the same house of studies estimated that the quasi-satellite entered Earth orbit about 500 years ago. Perhaps, after all, Kamoʻoalewa is indeed a child of the Moon.