Kamo’oalewa: What the strange “little moon” near Earth looks like and why its origin is mysterious

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image source, Getty Images

For a few years, scientists have been wondering about the origin of the asteroid Kamo`oalewa.

It was discovered in 2016 and astronomers know it has an orbit relatively close to Earth, but not very much.

However, new research has added new clues to its mysterious origin: it could be part of King Luna.

says Benjamin Sharkey, an astronomer at the University of Arizona (USA) and lead author of a new study published in temper nature.

Fellow Venezuelan Juan Sanchez, who was involved in the investigation, told BBC Mundo: “It could have been ejected due to a collision between the moon and a meteorite. The material may have come out of the moon’s surface.”

Although the only way to know the nature of Kamo`alewa is by obtaining samples, something that could happen this decade, scientists have several elements to consider true.

But first, what does Kamo`oalewa look like?


Camu Aliwa (formerly known as 2016 HO3) was discovered in 2016 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope located in Hawaii.

Scientists gave it a Hawaiian name that can be translated into Spanish as “Swinging Heavenly Shard.”

image source, NASA/JPL-Caltech

to explain,

The orbit of the asteroid Kamoʻoalewa, initially called 2016 HO3, is relative to the Sun (large rings) and relative to Earth (small rings).

Approximate length 40 metersTechnically, it is considered “Same The satellite, not “moon”.

Mundo Sanchez, a graduate of the Central University of Venezuela, explains to the BBC.

Scientists have so far discovered five semi-satellites, but in practice they have only been able to study Kamo`oalewa.

“It’s easier to spot than other known quasi-satellites,” Sanchez says. “Once a year, during April, this object becomes bright enough that it can be observed with large telescopes from Earth.”

The rest are less clear and cannot be analyzed.

When observing this asteroid, astronomers discovered that it was unusually red, which is an indication of the presence of metallic minerals.

“In simple terms, basically what we did was study how sunlight reflected off the surface of this object to try to determine what it was made of,” Sanchez says. “What we found is that the object is made of silicate minerals.”

image source, Getty Images

to explain,

The team used a powerful telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona, USA.

“What caught our attention is that this appearance is much more similar to the surface of the Moon than other near-Earth asteroids that have been studied,” continues the physicist.

Scientists concluded that, too The only known similar rock is a lunar specimen It was brought by the Apollo missions in the 1970s.

“And that caught our attention, because it’s the first time we’ve tried something like this. And the fact that we’ve observed it in a semi-satellite of the Earth, in an object orbiting the Sun, very close to Earth, makes us suspect that the object might have originated on the Moon,” he says. Sanchez.

But experts for the new study consider that the data entered into their study “support” their theory.

image source, Tony 873004

to explain,

Perspective view of 2020 CD3 orbit above Earth, another Kamoʻoalewa-like object.

“We’re not 100% sure and we can’t rule out that the object was simply captured by the general population of near-Earth asteroids. The only way is to get body samples to be sure,” Sanchez says.

It may not be that difficult.

If China’s plans continue, in this particular decade Beijing You will launch a robotic mission that will visit Kamo`oalewa And guilty of bringing samples.

Then it can be confirmed if Kamoʻoalewa is part of our moon.

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Lovell Loxley

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