Science And Space

An Asteroid Trailing After Mars Could Actually Be The Stolen Twin of Our Moon


A distant asteroid trailing within the gravitational wake of Mars has been noticed in higher element than ever earlier than, and the close-up reveals a shocking resemblance – one which raises some attention-grabbing questions in regards to the object’s historical origins.



The asteroid in query, referred to as (101429) 1998 VF31, is a part of a gaggle of trojan asteroids sharing the orbit of Mars.

Trojans are celestial bodies that fall into gravitationally balanced areas of house within the neighborhood of different planets, situated 60 levels in entrance of and behind the planet.

A lot of the trojan asteroids we learn about share Jupiter’s orbit, however different planets have them too, including Mars and Earth too.

What makes (101429) 1998 VF31 (hereafter ‘101429’) attention-grabbing is that among the many Crimson Planet’s trailing trojans (those that observe behind Mars because it orbits the Solar), 101429 seems to be distinctive.

Depiction of Mars and trojans; 101429 is the blue level circling L5. (AOP)

The remainder of the group, referred to as the L5 Martian Trojans, all belong to what’s referred to as the Eureka household, consisting of 5261 Eureka – the primary Mars trojan found – and a bunch of small fragments believed to have come free from their mum or dad house rock.

101429 is totally different, although, and in a new study led by astronomers from the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) in Northern Eire, researchers wished to look at why.


Utilizing a spectrograph referred to as X-SHOOTER on the European Southern Observatory’s 8-m Very Massive Telescope (VLT) in Chile, the staff examined how daylight displays off 101429 and its L5 kin within the Eureka household. Solely, it appears to be like like 101429 and the Eureka clan aren’t kin in spite of everything, with the evaluation revealing 101429 exhibits a spectral match for a satellite tv for pc a lot nearer to dwelling.

“The spectrum of this explicit asteroid appears to be nearly a dead-ringer for components of the Moon the place there may be uncovered bedrock resembling crater interiors and mountains,” explains AOP astrochemist Galin Borisov.

Whereas we will not make certain but why that’s, the researchers say it is believable that this Martian trojan’s origins started someplace far faraway from the Crimson Planet, with 101429 representing a “relic fragment of the Moon’s authentic strong crust”.

If that is true, how did the Moon’s long-lost twin find yourself as a trojan certain along with Mars?

010 moon asteroid 2Spectral comparability of 101429 and the Moon’s floor. (AOP)

“The early Photo voltaic System was very totally different from the place we see right now,” explains lead writer of the examine, AOP astronomer Apostolos Christou.

“The house between the newly-formed planets was stuffed with particles and collisions had been commonplace. Massive asteroids [planetesimals] had been consistently hitting the Moon and the opposite planets. A shard from such a collision may have reached the orbit of Mars when the planet was nonetheless forming and was trapped in its Trojan clouds.”


It is a fascinating concept, however the researchers say it is not the one clarification for 101429’s previous. It is also potential, and maybe extra probably, that the trojan as an alternative represents a fraction of Mars chipped off by an identical sort of incident impacting the Crimson Planet; or it would simply be a commonplace asteroid that, by means of the weathering processes of photo voltaic radiation, ended up trying identical to the Moon.

Additional observations with much more highly effective spectrographs may be capable of shed extra mild on this query of house parentage, as may a future spacecraft go to, the team says, “which may, en path to the Trojans, acquire spectra at Mars or the Moon for direct comparability with the asteroid information”.

The findings are reported in Icarus.


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