One found so far, but many more of these huggable-sized asteroids exist, astronomers say
K. Teramura/UH IfA
HONOLULU — Earth most likely has groupies. A revolving door of tiny space rocks, or “mini moons,” might flit around our planet, and Robert Jedicke is determined to find them.
“Only one is known,” Jedicke said August 3 at a meeting of the International Astronomical Union. “It’s not fictional.”
With just one temporary tagalong in hand, though, researchers have relied on computer simulations to learn about these visitors from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The one discovered in 2006 —roughly 3 meters wide (enormous by presumed mini moon standards) — orbited Earth for about a year. These elusive satellites are tantalizing targets for scoping out asteroids (SN: 8/23/14, p. 22) without having to go too far from home.
If only researchers could find more.