Back in 2016, a fireball blasted over Australia. Researchers thought that they had been mistaken for any other space object. There were, however, some images captured by the Desert Fireball Network, which proved that the fireball was no ordinary exploding space object but a rare “minimoon.”
Rapidity data showed the space rock has probably been in orbit nearby our planet before encountering its burning end. Such a thing is known as a briefly seized orbiter, or, a minimoon. According to a supercomputer simulation released in 2012, including 10 million virtual asteroids, approximately 18,000 got caught in Earth orbit.
There have been other discoveries of temporary moons nearby other planets, like Jupiter, for example. On Earth, such occurs are extremely rare. The Desert Fireball Network possesses six cameras crossing hundreds of kilometers across the Australian desert, observing things in detail.
Fireball Over Australia Might Have Been A Rare “Minimoon”
Researchers from Curtin University in Australia could tell the object’s speed (11km/second) and trajectory, which was estimated to be almost vertical. Such a rate demonstrates that the space object had been orbiting Earth, and the angle rules out satellite ruins.
Based on researchers’ estimations, it exists a 95 % probability the space rock was a temporarily caught orbiter. The team of researchers stated: “We find that the probable capture time, capture velocity, capture semimajor axis, capture [near-Earth object] group, and capture mechanism all vary annually, with most captures occurring during Earth’s aphelion or perihelion.”
Before the 2016 fireball over Australia, we’d only witnessed two Earth’s minimoons. First, an asteroid named 2006 RH120, which orbited our planet for almost a year from 2006 to 2007, and the second one, in 2014, with a low speed that showed an orbital source. There is a useful purpose these space objects are intriguing. In the future, we’ll get to understand more about such a phenomenon, using advanced instruments.