There’s a near-Earth asteroid that may not be what it seems

Research has revealed that it was probably once part of the Moon. Kamo oalewa is a space rock that never strays too far from our planet.

There are asteroids referred to as quasi-satellites because they always stay in close proximity to a planet. Their origins are mysterious and now scholars have focused on a particular space rock that always stays close to Earth. This is Kamo oalewa that never strays more than 100 times the distance from the Moon. New research has revealed that this object was likely once part of our satellite and may have been thrown off by an asteroid collision.

Kamo oalewa, the near-Earth asteroid

Initially known as 2016 H03, Kamo oalewa was discovered using the PanSTARRS telescope in Hawaii. It is difficult to study because it is only 55-60 meters wide, its orbit makes it only partially visible during April, and it can only be observed with very large telescopes. Ben Sharkey, of the University of Arizona, collected the spectrum of the space object and found that it was unlike any other asteroid he had ever seen. As Communications Earth and Environment reports, at first glance Kamo oalewa's spectrum looked similar to silicate asteroids, but when Sharkey and co-authors used longer exposure times they found that its spectral slope is distinctly tilted toward the red.

Correspondence between Kamo oalewa and the Moon

After ruling out comparisons to particularly iron-rich asteroids, the authors found that the only match they could find was with some rocks on the Moon's surface. Although the scholars point out that not enough knowledge is yet available about Kamo oalewa to be sure of its origin, other meteorites have already been found to have been launched from the Moon on impacts, so it is possible to speculate that 2016 H03 could be one of them.

Last year, three smaller objects with orbits quite similar to Kamo oalewa were found that are all thought to be pieces of a larger asteroid. Only five quasi-satellites are currently confirmed, most of which have fairly unstable orbits. Unlike these, Kamo oalewa is more stable and is expected to maintain its quasi-satellite status for 300 years.

There are many mysteries hidden in objects moving through space. For example, Nasa has found two strange pairs of asteroids, while another research has discovered a strange half-asteroid, half-comet element in the solar system. A study hypothesizes instead that the Earth was formed around the nucleus of an alien rock.

Stefania Bernardini