Madrid, 17 (European Press)
Kamo`oalewa, a semi-satellite that orbits the sun but remains relatively close to Earth, may have been the result of material ejection as a result of its collision with the moon.
It’s the result of a recent study that provides new details about the physical properties and possible origins of this asteroid, based on the identification of moon-like materials.
“Five Earth semi-satellites are known to exist and these objects are in a common orbit configuration with Earth as they remain close to our planet as it orbits the Sun. Of these five, Kamo`oalewa is the most stable; however, due to its small size, which is about 50 meters, the geometry of which is difficult to observe, only limited information has been obtained about this object so far,” said Juan A. Sanchez, an associate research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, said in a statement (PSI) and co-author of the new research, which is published in Nature Communications.
This research used data obtained over five years with the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and the Lowell Discovery Telescope (LDT), both located in Arizona. This work is the most complete study of this organism that has been performed to date. “We obtained photometric and spectroscopic data from Kamo`oalewa to learn more about its composition and physical properties,” Sanchez said.
The researchers analyzed sunlight reflected off the surface of Kamo`oalewa to determine the components of the asteroid. According to Sanchez, the spectral characteristics of this asteroid are consistent with silicate minerals (a rocky substance) that show a high degree of weathering in space.
“This means that the optical properties and physical structure of the surface were modified by the bombardment of micrometeorites and solar wind particles,” Sanchez said. This effect has been detected on other asteroids and on the Moon.
Kamo`oalewa is a rapidly rotating near-Earth asteroid (NEA); Previous studies have found that this body has a rotation period of about 30 minutes. During its orbit around the Sun, this asteroid can come close to Earth by 14.4 million km or 9 million miles.
The study also compared the new data from Kamo`oalewa with spectra from other NEA samples and meteorites, and found striking similarities between the spectra of the quasi-satellite and a lunar sample returned to Earth by the Apollo 14 mission.
The exact origin of Kamo`oalewa is unknown, but astronomers speculate that this asteroid could have been captured in its Earth-like orbit for the NEA population in general. Another possibility, given the similarity between Kamo`oalewa’s spectrum and the lunar sample, is that the object originated in the Earth-Moon system, possibly as material ejected by impact from the lunar surface. A mission sample to return to the asteroid is currently being prepared, and its launch is scheduled for 2025.
“Future teen idol. Hardcore twitter trailblazer. Infuriatingly humble travel evangelist.”