Friday, December 30, 2011

Pseudo-moons Orbit Earth

Earth may be going steady with the Moon, but it has a bit of a wanderer’s relationship with some other nearby objects. A study by an international trio of scientists suggests that, at any given time, there is at least one meter-sized mini asteroid temporarily orbiting our planet. Caught from the population of near-Earth objects (NEOs), the “satellite” completes on average three whirls around us in less than a year before the planet and meteoroid go their separate ways.

near-Earth objects
Earth may regularly catch and release nearby meteoroids as temporary satellites.
The results, to appear in Icarus, are based on supercomputer simulations; no real asteroids were involved. But the conclusions match a real temporary satellite seen a few years ago, 6R10DB9 (also known as 2006 RH120), which made a handful of orbits in 2006 and 2007 before sailing back out to circle the Sun again.


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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