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Earth has Two `Moons` Right Now, Theorists Say

Baku, December 24 (AZERTAC). Earth has two moons, a group of scientists argues. One is that waxing and waning nightlight we all know and love. The other is a tiny asteroid, no bigger than a Smart Car, making huge doughnuts around Earth for a while before it zips off into the distance.

That`s the scenario posited by the scientists in a paper published Dec. 20 in the planetary science journal ICARUS. The researchers say there is a space rock at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide orbiting Earth at any given time. They`re not always the same rock, but rather an ever-changing cast of "temporary moons."

In the scientists` theoretical model, our planet`s gravity captures these asteroids as they pass near us on their way around the sun. When one is drawn in, it typically makes three irregularly shaped swings around Earth — sticking with us for about nine months — before hurtling on its way.

According to the researchers, surprisingly little attention has been paid to Earth`s natural satellites other than the moon, despite the fact that they`re sure to exist. "There are lots of asteroids in the solar system, so chances for the Earth to capture one at any time is, in a sense, not surprising," said co-author Jeremie Vauballion, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory in France.

 

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