Hungary: A group of Hungarian scientists have discovered that the Earth has three moons- although the two “newest” ones are made entirely of dust.
The discovery is confirmation of work that stretches back decades to the early 1960s when the clouds were first spotted. The research published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society says that the new moons are entirely made up of extremely tiny dust particles of less than one millimeter size and reflect light rather faintly.
This is the reason why they were difficult to observe and study in the first place even when they are located at around the same distance as the Moon from the Earth—400,000 kilometers.
“It is very difficult to detect the clouds against the galactic light, star light, zodiacal light, and sky glow,” coauthor of the paper Gabor Horvath, a physicist at Eotvos Lorand University, told the media.
The research team has captured snapshots of the mysterious clouds lurking just 4,02,336 km away which is almost the same distance as the moon, they said in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
In 1961, Kazimierz Kordylewski, a Polish scientist had observed these moons for the first time and they were later named after him as Kordylewski Dust Clouds (KDCs). But their existence has been questioned by astronomers for the past six decades.
Kordylewski had discovered the dust clouds close to a special point in space known as L5 which is a Lagrange point of the Earth-Moon gravitational system. Lagrange points are places of equilibrium in space where gravitational forces of two large and solid astronomical objects like the Earth and the Moon cancel out the centrifugal forces.