facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

'Mini moons' may surround Earth

Jan. 5, 2012 at 8:44 PM   |   Comments

| License Photo
HELSINKI, Finland, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Hundreds of tiny moons may be orbiting Earth, as small asteroids get snagged by gravity and spend some time in orbit around the planet, Finnish researchers say.

Researchers have long suspected wandering asteroids might occasionally approach Earth close enough to be captured by gravity and become temporary moons.

Mikael Granvik of the University of Helsinki in Finland and colleagues ran computer simulations looking at the frequency of asteroids of various sizes approaching Earth's neighborhood and the likelihood of their capture in a close encounter.

To be captured, an object must start out in an orbit nearly identical to Earth's, and the team estimated, on average, one asteroid about 1 yard across is in Earth's orbit at any given time, and 1,000 or so smaller space rocks down to 4 inches across should be in orbit too.

"There's a lot more of these than people may have been thinking," Granvik told NewScientist.com.

Most stay in orbit less than a year, the simulations suggest, although some may stay much longer.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Massive sunspot sending violent flares toward Earth Massive sunspot sending violent flares toward Earth
2
Google exec breaks skydive record with dive from near-space Google exec breaks skydive record with dive from near-space
3
Powerful new microscope sees cell division in real time Powerful new microscope sees cell division in real time
4
Coal-rich Poland wants concessions in EU climate deal Coal-rich Poland wants concessions in EU climate deal
5
Stone tools reveal Ice Age settlement in the Andes Stone tools reveal Ice Age settlement in the Andes
Trending News
Around the Web
x
Feedback