For more than half a century, scientists have discussed the existence of two enigmatic celestial objects known as Kordylewski dust clouds.
These dust clouds were first observed by the Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski in 1961 and are thought to orbit around our planet around Lagrange points L4 and L5 – two of the five gravitazionally stable locations found in the Earth-Moon system .
Although occasional sightings of Kordylewski's dust clouds have been reported occasionally, their presence in the orbit of our planet has remained controversial. This is because dust clouds are known as "exceptionally weak" Daily science, which makes them extremely difficult to detect.
However, it seems that the elusive clouds have been successfully sighted by a group of Hungarian astronomers and physicists, who have finally confirmed their existence, reports the release of the media, citing the Royal Astronomical Society.
According to the team, Kordylewski's dust clouds were observed about 400,000 kilometers from Earth (or nearly 250,000 miles), around Lagrange's L5 point.
"The clouds of Kordylewski are two of the most difficult objects to find and even if they are the closest [the] Earth like the moon, [they] they are largely neglected by researchers in astronomy. It is curious to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit next to our lunar neighbor, "said Judit Slíz-Balogh, one of the researchers who made the discovery.
Our weak elusive neighbors in orbit: two dusty clouds of Kordylewski identified – at L5 pointhttps: //t.co/pBvWs7t6Gs
– ??????????????????? ???????????????? ???? (@DavidBrin) October 26, 2018
How do you go to find something that is practically untraceable? In this particular case, scientists began by developing a computerized model of Kordylewski's dust clouds to understand how they are formed and what is the best way to detect them.
The results of their simulation have been published at the beginning of this year in the Monthly notices from the Royal Astronomical Society and he highlighted that the mysterious clouds of dust could be identified with the help of polarizing filters – optical filters that transmit light with a particular direction of oscillation. These filters allow the passage of only the light waves of a specific polarization, while blocking everything else.
The next step was to apply the technique by observing the sky and actively searching for Kordylewski dust clouds around L4 and L5. Unlike the other three Langrangian points, which form a line that crosses the Earth and its natural satellite, L4 and L5 form an identical triangle with our planet and the moon and are constantly moving around the Earth as the moon moves along the its orbit. This makes them less gravitational stable, which has led scientists to doubt that dust can accumulate in these places.
"Many astronomers believe that these clouds of dust do not exist, because the gravitational perturbation of the sun, the solar wind and other planets could interrupt the stabilizing effect of the L4 and L5 Lagrange points of the Earth and the moon", stress the scientists in a second article, also published in Monthly notices from the Royal Astronomical Society.
Kordylewski clouds! https://t.co/sLm1CMjYtg
– Roger Highfield (@RogerHighfield) October 27, 2018
Using a highly sensitive photon detector and a linearly polarized filter system attached to a camera lens, the team photographed the areas and detected a type of polarized light that could only be reflected by the dust accumulated near the Lagrange point of L5.
The detection scheme corresponded both to their predictions with respect to the previous study and to the observations made by Kordylewski all those decades ago.
"Excluding the artifacts induced by the telescope, cirrus clouds or airborne contrails, the only explanation remains the polarized diffusion of sunlight on the particles gathered around point L5", the team concludes.