Space & Astronomy
Fireball may have been an orbiting 'minimoon'
By T.K. Randall
December 2, 2019 · 3 comments
It is unclear how many minimoons are orbiting Earth at any given time. Image Credit: RafaelMousob / Pixabay
Scientists have discovered new evidence of a temporary moon burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.
When a space object ventures close to our planet, sometimes it won't immediately get pulled in by Earth's gravity but will instead end up in orbit, at least on a temporary basis.
These so-called 'minimoons' will eventually end up either plummeting down through the atmosphere or being flung off back into the depths of space.
To date, only one known example of an orbiting minimoon has ever been found - an object known as 2006 RH120 which was discovered 13 years ago. It remained in orbit for around 11 months before escaping our planet's gravity and heading off back out into space.
Similarly, there has only been one known example of a minimoon burning up in the atmosphere.
Now though, researchers at Curtin University believe that they may have found a second example thanks to an analysis of data collected by Australia's Desert Fireball Network - a system of cameras set up for the purpose of capturing photographic evidence of minimoon fireballs.
By studying the images and then calculating the trajectory of the object, the researchers were able to determine with a reasonable degree of certainty that a second such fireball has indeed been found.
With any luck, more examples of these elusive objects will be identified over the coming years.
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