In news– Recently, astronomers have observed that a quasi-satellite — a near-Earth object that orbits the Sun and yet remains close to the Earth and spotted by the PanSTARRS telescope in Hawaii may be a piece of the moon.
- It was discovered in 2016 by the PanSTARRS telescope at Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii, that is operated by the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy and funded by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
- The near-Earth asteroid Kamo`oalewa was named Kamoʻoalewa, a Hawaiian word that refers to an oscillating celestial object.
- It can be observed only every few weeks in April.
- It is known as a quasi-satellite, meaning it orbits the sun but gets close to Earth.
- The asteroid is roughly the size of a Ferris wheel – between 150 and 190 feet in diameter – and gets as close as about 9 million miles from Earth.
- Because of its small size (about 50 metres wide), this quasi-satellite has been difficult for scientists to study, and little was known about it so far.
- Now, a new study has suggested that Kamo’oalewa was a part of the Earth’s Moon.
- It could have broken away from the Moon due to a possible impact, and gone on to orbit the Sun rather than the Earth-like its parent does.
- When scientists compared its spectrum with a lunar sample that was brought back to Earth during the Apollo 14 mission, they found striking similarities between the two.
- Another possibility is that Kamo’oalewa was captured in its Earth-like orbit from the general population of Near Earth Objects.
- A third possibility could be that it originated from an as-yet-undiscovered quasi-stable population of Earth’s Trojan asteroids (Trojans are a group of asteroids that share an orbit with a larger planet).
- A mission to collect Kamo’oalewa’s samples has been scheduled for a launch in 2025.