This is only the second time such a Minimoon fireball has ever been spotted. Ten hours ago, a fiery meteor exploded over the Australian desert which may have been an ultra-rare minimoon. Space objects sometimes come really close to Earth but are not always pulled in by our planet’s gravity field and burn up.
They regularly orbit for a short period of time before they are either hurled back out into deep space or go into an orbit of short duration and burn up. These objects are called temporarily captured orbiters (TCOs) and are referred to as natural Earth satellites or minimoons.
Right now data is pouring in from Australia’s Desert Fireball Network (DFN), which consists of a network of cameras set up across Australia to capture images of minimoon fireballs entering Earth’s atmosphere and burning up — the research group has identified this object as being a minimoon meteor, or fireball.
By studying the object’s flight path around Earth, the team was able to calculate its trajectory to see what angle it entered Earth’s atmosphere at (if the object entered Earth’s atmosphere at a smaller angle, it suggests that it circled Earth first). This information combined with velocity data led the researchers to conclude that, most likely, this object was orbiting Earth before being pulled in by gravity and burning up in our planet’s atmosphere.
This would most likely make the object a minimoon. When the flight paths of minimoons like are analyzed, researchers can better understand how we might soon be able to more easily access these objects and the resources that they may possess.
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