Another Moon Might Be Orbiting Earth, And Scientists Say They Know Where It Came From


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
Font Size:

A near-earth asteroid (NEA) called Kamo’oalewa is orbiting us as a “minimoon” and scientists said Friday that they may know its origin story.

The Kamo’oalewa asteroid orbits in time with Earth and may just be a shattered piece of our regular moon, according to a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy. The research argues that Kamo’oalewa was likely flung into our immediate cosmos when a different mile-wide asteroid collided with our moon, creating the Giordano Bruno crater.

The surface of Kamo’oalewa reflects light in the same way as weathered lunar rocks. Its size, spin and age also match our moon and the enormous crater on the far side of the moon.

“The possibility of a lunar-derived origin adds unexpected intrigue to the [Tianwen-2] mission and presents additional technical challenges for the sample return,” the study’s co-author, Bin Cheng, told Science. The Tianwen-2 mission will likely launch in 2025 as a sample-return mission to Kamo’oalewa that should take around two and a half years. (RELATED: NASA Makes Major Mars Announcement. Can You Help?)

The minimoon itself was first noted in 2016 by experts at Hawaii’s Haleakala Observatory, according to Live Science. Though it is pretty small, at just 100 to 200 feet in diameter, it orbits the sun on a similar path to Earth.