Moon’s ‘long-lost twin’ is following Mars round like a cosmic pet

An asteroid that follows Mars round positive seems an terrible lot like components of the moon.


Trojan asteroids share the identical orbital path as sure planets, both main forward of the planet or trailing behind. Jupiter is known for its many Trojan asteroids, however Mars has a couple of of them as effectively. One these Martian companions — asteroid (101429) 1998 VF31 — could possibly be a stunt double for our personal moon.

A workforce led by researchers on the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) in Northern Eire took a detailed take a look at asteroid 101429’s composition and drew some fascinating connections to our lunar neighbor in a study set for the January 2021 issue of the journal Icarus.

The planetary scientists used the X-shooter spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Giant Telescope in Chile to take a look at how daylight displays off the asteroid’s floor. They analyzed this information and in contrast it with different know house our bodies.

Earlier observations of the asteroid, which trails behind Mars on the identical orbital path, led the workforce to suppose it might need an identical composition to a standard kind of meteorite. “To their shock, they discovered that one of the best spectral match was not with different small our bodies however with our nearest neighbor, the moon,” said lead author Apostolos Christou in an AOP statement on Tuesday.

Examine co-author Galin Borisov with AOP described asteroid 101429 as a “dead-ringer for components of the moon the place there’s uncovered bedrock equivalent to crater interiors and mountains.”

So what’s the asteroid’s origin story? The researchers proposed a number of choices. It might truly be much like widespread meteorites in spite of everything, nevertheless it’s simply been worn down by its house adventures over time. 

It might probably be a piece of the moon. Christou described the debris-filled early photo voltaic system again when the moon was getting smacked by massive asteroids: “A shard from such a collision might have reached the orbit of Mars when the planet was nonetheless forming and was trapped in its Trojan clouds,” he mentioned. 

A 3rd thought is that the asteroid was knocked off of Mars by an identical affect state of affairs. Christou described this idea as “maybe extra possible.” 

The asteroid stays an open-ended thriller, but when the moon ever wants a stand-in for a couple of days, we all know who to name. 

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