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A piece of the Moon broke off: how it threatens the Earth

Maria ShevchukNews
Theory about the origin of the asteroid may open a new page in the history of the Moon. Source: Wikipedia

A group of astronomers believes that the near-Earth asteroid Camoalev, with a diameter of 40 to 100 meters, was once part of the Moon. The space rock could have broken off from a crater named after the 16th-century Italian cosmologist and theorist Giordano Bruno.

This assumption was made by a research team led by Tsinghua University astronomer Yifei Jiao. Scientists write in Nature Astronomy that they have found evidence of the possible origin of Camoalev from a crater formed several million years ago.

"We have investigated the migration of lunar fragments caused by the collision into Earth's orbital space. This directly links this asteroid to the source crater on the Moon. It also suggests the existence of more small asteroids composed of lunar material that have not yet been detected in near-Earth space," the researchers write in their article.

This space rock has been attracting the attention of astronomers for many years. First, it orbits the Sun in an orbit similar to Earth's and is expected to remain stable for millions of years.

Spectral analysis also showed that the stone matches the composition of the Moon almost perfectly.

"We noticed the spectrum of Kamoalev only because it was in an unusual orbit," said Renu Malhotra, a professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona, who also suggests that Kamoalev is a piece of the Moon.

The scientist adds that no one would have thought to study the asteroid's spectrum if it were not for its atypical properties. Then no one would have had any idea that it was a fragment of the moon.

Jiao and his colleagues built on this finding by using computer models to simulate what would happen if Kamooaele collided with the moon's surface. They found that it would leave behind a crater larger than 19 km.

The crater Giordano, which is a whopping 21 km across, seems to be the perfect candidate.

The lack of debris also suggests that the space rock is between 10 and 100 million years old. This is a relatively young age considering that the Moon itself is billions of years old.

"It is clear that the largest, youngest craters are more likely sources because they produce more debris that still remains in space or Earth orbit," Jiao and his team write.

The scientists conclude that Giordano Bruno "is the only possible source crater that meets this criterion."

More work needs to be done to definitively establish the connection between the space rocks and the crater. But it's certainly an interesting theory that paints a fascinating, if brutal, picture of the Moon's recent history. The study also allows us to better understand near-Earth asteroids like Camoalev and their origins, possibly leading to future discoveries of similar rocks.

Most interestingly, China plans to visit Camoalev as part of a mission to return samples from the Tianwen-2 asteroid, which is tentatively scheduled for next year.

"The possibility of a lunar origin adds unexpected intrigue to the mission and poses additional technical challenges to returning the samples," Bin Cheng, a co-author of the study and a planetary scientist at Tsinghua University, told Science.

"We can learn a lot about the history of craters on the Moon and their contribution to the Earth's environment," he added.

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