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In the past few years, scientists have been exploring a question: where did the asteroid oscillating star (Kamo’oalewa) come from.
This asteroid was discovered in 2016, and so far astronomers only know that it is an asteroid that is in common orbit with the Earth, but nothing else.
However, new research seems to have found more clues to explore its mysterious origin: the asteroid is likely to be a fragment of the moon.
Benjamin Sharkey is an astronomer at the University of Arizona and one of the main authors of a new research report recently published in the journal Nature. He said: “If it is really a normal asteroid, then it looks very different from the normal asteroid we expected.”
Juan Sanchez, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, also participated in this research work. He told the BBC: “The oscillating star may be the debris bounced off the moon after being hit by a meteorite.”
To find out the essential attributes of the Oscillating Star, the only way is through sampling and testing. This may be possible in the next ten years, but scientists believe that the theory that it came from the moon should be established for several reasons.
So, what exactly is the oscillating star?
The oscillating celestial star originally numbered 2016 HO3 was discovered by a telescope in Hawaii in the 2016 Pan-STARRS 1 survey of celestial bodies.
Scientists gave it a name in Hawaiian, which literally means “Oscillating Celestial Fragment” (Kamo’oalewa).
It is about 40 meters long and is strictly classified as a “satellite” rather than a “satellite” in strict technical terms.
Sanchez explained: “As the planet Earth, the satellite is a celestial body that is in the same orbit as the earth. Therefore, although the celestial body also orbits the sun, it is still close to our earth.”
The difference from the moon orbiting the earth is that the oscillating star does not orbit the earth, but orbits parallel to the sun. Therefore, even if our planet disappears, this celestial body will continue to move in its current orbit.
So far, scientists have detected five satellites of the earth, but the only one that has been actually studied is the oscillating star.
Sanchez said: “It is easier to observe than other known satellites. Every April, this celestial body becomes bright enough to observe it from the earth with a large telescope.”
Several other satellites are less obvious and cannot be analyzed.
A very special rock
When observing this asteroid, astronomers found that it was unusually bright red, indicating that it contained metallic minerals.
Sanchez told the BBC: “Simply put, we are basically studying how the surface of this celestial body reflects sunlight, trying to determine its composition. What we found is that it is composed of silicate minerals.”
“What has caught our attention is that compared with other near-Earth asteroids that have been studied, the appearance of oscillating stars is closer to our lunar surface.”
Another basis for the scientists to infer is that the only known specimen of similar rocks is the lunar sample brought back by the American Apollo lunar exploration project in the 1970s.
Sanchez explained: “This caught our attention because this is the first time we have attempted such a study. We have observed an azure satellite, and this azure satellite is very close to the earth and orbits the sun. This makes us doubt this celestial body. Probably from the surface of the moon.”
Other theories suggest that the oscillating star may be part of the so-called near-Earth object, the “Trojan asteroid,” which has no necessary connection with the earth or the moon.
However, the experts participating in this new research believe that the data in their research provides a very favorable support for the theory of “Moon Fragment”.
Sanchez said: “We are not 100% sure, nor can we rule out that the celestial body is only one of the discovered near-Earth asteroids. The only way to be fully confirmed is to get a sample of the celestial body.”
This method may not be so difficult to get to the sky.
In April 2021, at the China Space Conference Forum, Ye Peijian, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, stated that the small celestial body exploration mission designed by China will be implemented in three phases in 10 years. Comet 311 will be detected.
If China’s plan is implemented, within ten years China will launch probes to visit Oscillating Star and Comet 311, and bring back samples.
At that time, the mystery of whether the oscillating star came from the moon will find a clear answer.