Saturday, December 24, 2011

Earth Must Have Another Moon, Say Astronomers

Scientists studying satellites orbiting the planet have come to an astounding conclusion: Earth has multiple moons at any given time, the MIT Technology Review reported.

Mikael Granvik, along with colleagues at the University of Hawaii, first discovered a mysterious body orbiting the Earth in 2006. The object -- or RH120 as it was known -- turned out to be a tiny asteroid just a few meters across. Moreover, it was a natural satellite just like our moon.

Since then, the researchers have been studying how this "Earth-Moon" gravitational system captures bodies into its orbit while also modelling their frequency and duration. The asteroid RH120 for instance was captured in September 2006 and orbited the planet until June 2007.

But how often do these "temporary moons" actually occur? Quite often, the astronomers found.

"At any given time, there should be at least one natural Earth satellite of one-meter diameter orbiting the Earth," Granvik, Jeremie Vaubaillon and Robert Jedicke wrote in "The Population of Natural Earth Satellites," a paper published in online physics journal

In other words, at this very moment, our planet likely has a secret moon orbiting us (no word as to whether it's a blue moon). Such objects typically stay for about 10 months, making three revolutions around the planet.

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