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Astronomers Want To Hunt Down Earth's Mini-Moons

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the that's-no-mini-moon dept.

Moon 44

astroengine writes "The Earth has one permanent moon — you know, 'The Moon' — but at any given time there are thought to be two temporary interlopers that were once asteroids, but get captured by our planet's gravity to become mini-moons for a few months or even years. They eventually get flung back out into interplanetary space. This ultimate 'catch and release' provides an interesting opportunity for any future asteroid mission. So now astronomers want to find them, possibly using the newly-minted Hubble-class spy telescopes donated to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office."

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What a letdown (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42827449)

I was six when I learned that the Man on the Moon wasn't real. And now I'm hearing that he doesn't even do his own stunts.

Re:What a letdown (0)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42827677)

I would imagine that the former would have long since precluded the latter.

Re:What a letdown (2)

Gilmoure (18428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42828195)

Yes Sheldon.

Put an critter-cam on it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42829575)

Put an critter-cam on it...alien-cam 7 live telicast

And when we find one, the first words uttered.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42827503)

That's no moon!

Just getting that one out of the way early.

Re:And when we find one, the first words uttered.. (-1, Offtopic)

flyneye (84093) | about a year and a half ago | (#42827683)

It's bound to get posted.
Someone won't be able to resist.
I can feel the itchy fingers on a keyboard somewhere.
Let the goatse begin...

The Truth About Michael Jackson's supposed death (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42827517)

You might not think that there's a link between Michael Jackson's supposed death and most of the negative events you've experienced personally in your own life, but there is, and it's real.

When confronted with evidence exposing the truth about Michael Jackson's supposed death, the Jews downplayed their role significantly.

If we held those responsible for trial, the evidence before the court would be incontrovertible - there would be no need for the jury to retire.

You may not know it, but the concept of currency inflation was invented by the Jews, which wanted an easy way to increase the numerical value of their investments in pot. It's easy to tell that inflation was never really real: when things get older, they get run down and lose value, right? But inflation is about numbers getting BIGGER. It doesn't make any sense!

Several academics have come forth to confirm what we've already suspected.

For years, the government has been using industrial accidents and Michael Jackson's supposed death as excuses for increasing restrictions on the use of pot. But we all know that's just an excuse. Ordinary people should be allowed to keep as much pot as they want for personal use.

Do people actually think this is ok? It is time to finally speak out and reveal the truth.

Re:The Truth About Michael Jackson's supposed deat (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42827777)

So Elvis was the "John the Baptist" to Jackos "Jesus"?
I see American Idol, hear the songs and think, why don't they just ressurect Hitler? Did the Elephant man die for his sins? Is Mickey Mouse the Anti-Christ?
When he died, did he go to Never Neverland? Will he face being eternally racked with a peter pan? Can one see through the holes in his hands, feet and side?
Will the pope lead the 5th Reich? Who prepares the doves let loose at his hearing before Pilate? Is it squab in buttersauce? Is it the sacrament on McCauly Caulkins tongue? Did he swallow? Did it taste like "rubba" or did he wash himself first?
Enquiring Minds want to know.
"Boys and girls, I got to warn ya, never go to California"-- Annabella Llewin

Re:The Truth About Michael Jackson's supposed deat (-1, Offtopic)

Aardpig (622459) | about a year and a half ago | (#42828177)

I find your ideas fascinating and would like to subscribe to your publication.

that's no moon (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42827565)

Must resist........

Re:that's no moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42830191)

I feel a disturbance in the force, as if millions of Slashdot readers tried to make that joke, and were suddenly silenced.

Wacky physics, or... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42827617)

They left out the part that it's not the Earth alone somehow capturing and releasing these objects, it's the interaction between Earth's gravity and the moon's gravity that can result in a temporary capture.

Re:Wacky physics, or... (4, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | about a year and a half ago | (#42827753)

They left out the part that it's not the Earth alone somehow capturing and releasing these objects, it's the interaction between Earth's gravity and the moon's gravity that can result in a temporary capture.

And the gravity of the Sun, Jupiter, Mars, and your neighbor's Honda Civic... and that's just the tip of the iceburg. Pick a flower, and you move the furthest star. However, listing everything that plays a role in this (which is, literally, everything) is rather cumbersome, so it's fair to simply list the one object that has the greatest influence and leave out the 10^80 other objects involved.

Re:Wacky physics, or... (2)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year and a half ago | (#42827833)

it's fair to simply list the one object that has the greatest influence

I'd go one step further and include the Sun. Solar gravity gradients are within the same order of magnitude as those of the Moon.

Re:Wacky physics, or... (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | about a year and a half ago | (#42830609)

I would think the sun has a greater role. It pulled the "moon" into the earth so the earth could capture it in the first place. I'm must saying...

Re:Wacky physics, or... (-1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about a year and a half ago | (#42831471)

The funny part is that the "stability" of the celestial system is what convinced Western Europe of a great many scientific facts, and was one of the driving forces of the enlightenment. Even recently, one of the tests of relativity theory (determining whether light really does have a finite speed to be exact) was done by looking at the interference patterns generated by Jupiter's moons. The funny thing about that is that if you were to redo that experiment today you would get totally different values. The same is true for earlier theories, like Kepler's laws or Newton's gravity. The measurements that they purported to explain, they could not actually explain. But very short subsets of those measurements followed the discovered laws to near-perfection.

So the solar system, that convinced the Western world that only a "mechanical God" or no God at all ruled the heavens, because everything is perfectly predictable ... turns out not to be predictable, fickle like the weather. They didn't know that at the time, because reliable measurements had just started mere decades earlier, and in the short term they are extremely stable. But the random perturbations of the system (ie. comets just happening to pass by, modifying moon and planetary orbits while they swing by) have an influence that is so big that they destroy whatever signal is in the measurements. Planetary orbits are not stable at all, nor are they even remotely elliptical in practice (they are perturbed too much).

And it's worse yet than merely those comets, the fact is that it was not yet known that the "three body problem" is chaotic, and the relation between starter positions and "end" states is completely unpredictable. So a 11 huge bodies, trillions of smaller bodies system, like the solar system, is completely unstable on all but the shortest time frames. Now, even though we have better scientific models and more accurate theories, we have also found that actually predicting planetary orbits or moon orbits as little as 100 years out is completely impossible to do with any accuracy. This is because of "black swan" events with huge influence, that occur with alarming regularity.

In a way, it's funny, that we were convinced of pretty much the central claim of the enlightenment ... by a measurement error. By a failure to detect omnipresent chaos. The people that convinced the world that physical laws, not God, ruled the heavens ... were wrong. Not about the principle, those laws do apply, but about the actual examples they gave. The laws about gravity do not really predict planetary or moon orbits with any accuracy if there's constantly trillions of disturbances happening everywhere that you cannot measure and thus cannot implement in the calculations. It was just really hard to prove them wrong in the short term. And people believed them, and of course they did not modify their beliefs once it did become clear they were wrong. In this case it was a positive force, of course, but that was mere luck.

The sad part is that this lesson hasn't sunk in. Predicting past events to near-perfect accuracy is easy in a chaotic system. Predicting the future, or even just measuring the present situation, is not impossible, but so absurdly hard that we can safely say that no technology or theory will ever be able to do it.

I'm kind of afraid that's the next lesson we'll have to learn the hard way. Just because we have correct theories does not mean we can accurately predict the future. Chaos is everywhere. Not just in the heavens, but on earth as well, from wall street to the climate.

Re:Wacky physics, or... (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42832039)

I think you don't quite understand how science works.

Re:Wacky physics, or... (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about a year and a half ago | (#42832531)

Way to make an argument. Don't bore people with the details.

Do you work for Fox News ?

Re:Wacky physics, or... (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42835241)

Way to make an argument. Don't bore people with the details.

Do you work for Fox News ?

No, I just can't be bothered arguing.

Re:Wacky physics, or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42832273)

I would think the sun has a greater role. It pulled the "moon" into the earth so the earth could capture it in the first place.

Not necessarily so. We have no idea what direction the planet that collieded with the earth came from, or its speed. It could have been an "orphan" planet thrown out of its home stellar system by the gravitation of a gas giant in that system, or even a Jovian moon thrown out of its orbit by interaction with other Jovian satellites. The sun could have eaily had very little to do with it.

Re:Wacky physics, or... (2)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42828633)

If the Earth, the Moon, and the asteroids were the only objects in the universe, the capture would still happen the way it does. If Earth, the asteroids, and the rest of the universe were still present but the Moon wasn't there, it wouldn't. (The asteroids might still be captured by Earth's gravity, of course, but not in the way they are now.) So I think you don't really understand OP's point.

Re:Wacky physics, or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42830719)

There's a moon in the sky, and it's called the moon -- The B52s

Newsflash; Obama voted the worst socialist ever by 9 out of 10 Soviet Dentists

Re:Wacky physics, or... (1)

aynoknman (1071612) | about a year and a half ago | (#42829771)

And the gravity of the Sun, Jupiter, Mars, and your neighbor's Honda Civic... and that's just the tip of the iceburg

I knew Dirk Gently was right about "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things"!

Re:Wacky physics, or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42832835)

Just think what you could do by working out all the forces being applied to... say, a piece of cake.

Re:Wacky physics, or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42833831)

They left out the part that it's not the Earth alone somehow capturing and releasing these objects, it's the interaction between Earth's gravity and the moon's gravity that can result in a temporary capture.

And the gravity of the Sun, Jupiter, Mars, and your neighbor's Honda Civic... and that's just the tip of the iceburg. Pick a flower, and you move the furthest star. However, listing everything that plays a role in this (which is, literally, everything) is rather cumbersome, so it's fair to simply list the one object that has the greatest influence and leave out the 10^80 other objects involved.

Jesus H. Fucking Christ!! Why are there so many argumentative douchebags around here? Does a flower's gravitational pull somehow disappear once it's picked?

QI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42827765)

Had a skit [youtube.com] about it.

Star Trek: Catch and release (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42827801)

Just like Starfleet's standing order for other (dead, lifeless) bodies like Spock.

Mini moons? (2)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about a year and a half ago | (#42827989)

Those are space stations!

Re:Mini moons? (2)

PhxBlue (562201) | about a year and a half ago | (#42833455)

Not yet, but if we're serious about developing a next-generation space program, then they we should look at making that a true statement.

Don't hurt Chibiusa! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42828117)

I've seen season two of Sailor Moon and I know what you want with Mini-Moon. Stay away from her you damn "astronomers"!

you know, 'Luna'. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42828369)

you know, 'The Moon'

I tend to think that should be 'the moon', no caps; named, among other things, 'Luna'.

Re:you know, 'Luna'. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42830401)

So...you mean to say "Luna", as in "Moon" in Spanish, Italian...and so on all the way back to the original Latin.

So instead of calling me "dragon" in your tongue, you'll call me "Dragon" in some other tongue.

Brilliant, I say

so the NRO actually found them (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about a year and a half ago | (#42828377)

the weapons of mass destruction! the mini-moons...what a concept! now NASA gets a peek.

Hello, Carl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42828397)

Ignignokt: I am Ignignokt, and this is Err.
Err: I am Err!
Ignignokt: We are Mooninites, from the inner core of the moon.
Err: You said it right!
Ignignokt: Our race is hundreds of years beyond yours.
Err: Man do you hear what he's sayin'?
Ignignokt: Some would say that the Earth is our moon...
Err: We're the moon!
Ignignokt: ...but that would belittle the name of our moon... which is, the Moon.
Err: Point is, we're at the center, not you.
Carl: No, the real point is, I don't give a damn.
Ignignokt: Is your ego satisfied?
Err: Damn no.
Ignignokt: No.

at first I read the last word wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42828527)

I skimmed the thread title really fast, and my brain saw a bunch of M's and O's and N's, and parsed it as "Astronomers Want To Hunt Down Earth's Morons". My immediate thought was, "Well, have you checked the US Congress?"

Re:at first I read the last word wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42828583)

and Reality TV personality and their viewers...

Cruithne (1)

IntentionalStance (1197099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42828623)

is a moon of the Earth if you believe Stephen Fry and QI

Re:Cruithne (1)

Turminder Xuss (2726733) | about a year and a half ago | (#42828673)

Cruithne [wikipedia.org] has been referred to as Earth's Second Moon, but it is really in orbit around the Sun in 1:1 orbital resonance with the Earth, whatever that means.

Re:Cruithne (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year and a half ago | (#42829451)

Well, The Moon does the same thing. It orbits the sun and just wobbles a little bit.

Re:Cruithne (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42832035)

Cruithne [wikipedia.org] has been referred to as Earth's Second Moon, but it is really in orbit around the Sun in 1:1 orbital resonance with the Earth, whatever that means.

Co-orbital asteroid. They count as moons if you stretch the definition of 'moon' a bit, as they do trace a complete orbit of the Earth itself (except those that don't obviously).

Re:Cruithne (1)

Turminder Xuss (2726733) | about a year and a half ago | (#42840725)

I think Cruithne is one that doesn't. One way of putting it is that Cruithne is never in Earth's shadow. I'm happy to call it a moon though, if for no better reason than to see Stephen Fry discomfort Alan Davis.

where did we get the quantity 2? (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about a year and a half ago | (#42830695)

Having read the article, the Earth may have any number of temporarily captured asteroids.

Where did the idea come that we have two of them?

Not moons. (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | about a year and a half ago | (#42833485)

If the objects only temporarily orbit the Earth, they're not moons.

If the objects orbit the Earth-Moon system, they're not moons.

I know it's pedantic, but accuracy is important, even on /..

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