Asteroid Hidden Behind Moon Could Be Fragment That Broke Off Earth’s Moon
An unusual asteroid has been discovered hiding behind Mars, and scientists believe it could actually be a piece of our Moon.
The fragment in question is a known as ‘Trojan asteroid’ – an asteroid that closely follows the path of a nearby planet – in this case, one trailing behind Mars’ orbit.
According to scientists at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium in Northern Ireland, this particular asteroid is a ‘dead ringer’ for something much closer to home. So much so, in fact, that they think it could be a fragment of the Moon that broke off some 4 billion years ago.
The team of scientists used the ‘Very Large Telescope’ – that’s the official name – in Chile belonging to the European Southern Observatory to look at how sunlight was reflected off the asteroid’s surface. Using Spectral analysis to compare the 1km rock to other objects in space, the research team initially assumed the rock would be comparable to other similarly sized meteorites, CNET reports.
However according to Apostolos Christou, lead author of the research study, they soon reached another conclusion.
Writing in Armagh Planet, Christou said:
To their surprise, they found that the best spectral match was not with other small bodies but with our nearest neighbor, the moon
Another astrochemist at the Armagh Observatory said the asteroid was ‘almost a dead-ringer for parts of the moon where there is exposed bedrock’.
Researchers can’t be 100% sure the asteroid in question actually came directly from the Moon. Other theories include the asteroid just being a plain old regular meteorite, while there’s another suggestion the rock could be a fragment of Mars itself, The Guardian reports.
However, conditions in space around four billion years ago could plausibly have caused a chunk of the Moon to fly off towards Mars. The Moon had to deal with a lot in the early days of the solar system, frequently colliding with other asteroids. According to Christou, ‘a shard from such a collision could have reached the orbit of Mars when the planet was still forming and was trapped in its Trojan clouds’.
Whatever it is, it’s an exciting find for scientists, and who knows what other objects are floating around in our solar system, waiting to be discovered.
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