Astronomers discover the "Moon's lost twin" hiding behind Mars

Astronomers discover Moon-like asteroid hiding behind Mars

Astronomers discover the "Moon's lost twin" hiding behind Mars

Astronomers including Dr. Apostolos Christou, have discovered an asteroid trailing behind Mars, which they described as a possible "long lost twin brother" of the Moon.

The asteroid could be an ancient piece of debris, dating back to the gigantic impacts that formed the moon and the other rocky planets in our solar system like Mars and Earth.

What astronomers have discovered

Scientists from the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) used the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to study the space rock.

Astronomer Dr. Apostolos Christou, who published the article in the journal Icarus, believes the asteroid known as (101429) 1998 VF31, was possibly a chunk of moon that was dislodged by an enormous impact during the Solar System's formative years, around four billion years ago.

“The early solar system was very different from the place we see today. The space between the newly-formed planets was full of debris and collisions were commonplace. Large asteroids – we call these planetesimals – were hitting the Moon and the other planets. A shard from such a collision could have reached the orbit of Mars when the planet was still forming and was trapped in its Trojan clouds," Dr. Apostolos Christou said.

However, the more likely scenario is that the object came from Mars itself. As Dr. Christou points out: “The shape of the 101429 spectrum tells us that it is rich in pyroxene, a mineral found in the outer layer or crust of planet-sized bodies. Mars, like the Moon and the Earth, was pummeled by impacts early in its history, one of these was responsible for the gigantic Borealis basin, a crater as wide as the planet itself. Such a colossal impact could easily have sent 101429 on its way to the planet’s L5 Lagrangian point.”

In other space news, US space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that for the first time in almost 50 years, they are gearing up to send astronauts to the Moon once again. The Name NASA has chosen for this new program is ‘Artemis’. In Greek mythology, Artemis is the sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus. She was the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, and the Moon.

The first woman astronaut to the Moon will also leave her footprints on the lunar surface.