Just discovered: Earth has apparently had a mini moon for many years
Created: 2023-01-09 05:39
By: Tanya Banner
Calculations show that a small asteroid has been orbiting the earth as a mini moon since 1961.
(Iconic image) © imago/Ken Pilon
Occasionally the earth catches a mini moon.
Now an asteroid is discovered that has been accompanying the planet for a long time.
Frankfurt – The earth has a permanent companion on its way around the sun: the moon.
It is bound to the planet by the earth's attraction and orbits it once every 29 days, 12 hours and 43 minutes, and can be seen in the sky as a full moon about once a month.
Occasionally it happens that the earth catches another, temporary companion.
For example, from 2017 to 2020, the small asteroid 2020 CD3 orbited the earth.
Now another celestial body has been discovered that accompanies the earth - and has apparently been so for many years: initial calculations show that the asteroid 2022 YG is between 16 and 30 meters in size and has been orbiting the earth since around 1961.
It was not discovered until mid-December 2022. One of the first observers of the small asteroid was the Russian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov, who discovered the first interstellar comet 2I/Borisov in 2019.
Mini Moon: Asteroid 2022 YG has been orbiting Earth since 1961
First computer models show that the asteroid 2022 YG takes about a year to orbit the earth once.
According to the first calculations, the small asteroid will accompany the earth until the year 2181, when it will be able to free itself from the grip of earth's gravity.
Looking at the first computer models, the orbit of the newly discovered mini-moon appears to be very strange: first the orbit expands in one direction into an elongated ellipse, then the mini-moon migrates to a circular orbit around the earth, and then form an elliptical path in the other direction.
The cycle then repeats itself over and over again - until asteroid 2181 breaks out of Earth's gravity.
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Asteroid 2022 YG could accompany Earth as a mini moon for a long time
Further simulations of the orbit and analysis of the asteroid 2022 YG will show whether it will indeed accompany Earth for that long.
However, the first calculations suggest so.
Name of the mini moon
Period as Earth's mini moon
February to March 1992
June 2006 to September 2007
around 2017 to May 2020
November 2020 to estimated May 2021
about 1961 to estimated 2181
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Fancy a voyage of discovery?
Not every supposed mini-moon on Earth is an asteroid: According to experts, the celestial body 2020 SO, which is said to have orbited the Earth from November 2020 to May 2021, was very likely a discarded rocket stage.