A new addition to our planet’s cosmic companionship has been discovered, according to a recent study. This newfound celestial body is known as a ‘quasi-moon’, which refers to a space rock that orbits the Earth while being influenced by the gravitational pull of the sun.
Discovery of quasi-moon
The discovery of this peculiar quasi-moon, bearing the name 2023 FW13, was made by a team of knowledgeable researchers utilizing the Pan-STARRS telescope situated atop the Haleakala volcano in Hawaii. It joins the ranks of a select few other identified quasi-moons.
Following extensive observations conducted using the Canada France Hawaii Telescope situated on Mauna Kea, as well as observatories located on Kitt Peak and Mount Lemmon, the momentous discovery was officially proclaimed on April 1st.
Adrien Coffinet, a renowned French astronomer and journalist, expressed skepticism upon encountering the announcement, particularly regarding the quasi- moon’s Earth-like semimajor axis.
Employing a simulator capable of extrapolating orbital parameters into both the past and future, Coffinet diligently scrutinized the orbit of this celestial companion. Through his meticulous analysis, Coffinet became the first to ascertain the nature of the quasi-moon’s orbit, shedding light on its intriguing trajectory.
According to experts, this age-old cosmic companion has been accompanying Earth in its cosmic journey since the year 100 BC. Remarkably, it is predicted to continue encircling our planet for approximately 1,500 more years, until the year AD 3700.
Fortunately, both 2023 FW13 and another quasi-moon named 469219 Kamoʻoalewa are not believed to pose any threat or danger to the inhabitants of Earth.
What are Quasi-moons?
Quasi-moons, also referred to as ‘quasi-satellites’, often exhibit a visual appearance similar to that of our familiar natural satellite, the moon (affectionately known as ‘Luna’). They seem to revolve around our planet in a manner akin to Luna’s graceful orbit.
Space rock called 2023 FW13 was found with the Pan-STARRS telescope, Hawaii Experts say it will keep circling our planet for another 1,500 years until AD 3700 Another quasi-moon found back in 2016 could be a fragment of our moon Earth has a new moon – or at least a 'quasi-moon. pic.twitter.com/ItBthVhoPr
— Gina Siano (@sianogina4) May 29, 2023
However, these celestial entities are designated with the prefix ‘quasi’ due to their gravitational attachment to the sun, in contrast to Luna’s relationship with Earth. This distinction sets them apart, as their gravitational allegiance lies primarily with the sun rather than our own planet.
Differences between 2023 FW13 and our moon
2023 FW13 distinguishes itself from our moon due to its orbital position lying well beyond the limits of Earth’s ‘Hill sphere.’ This term refers to the region surrounding a celestial body where its own gravitational pull is the dominant force that attracts satellites.
Earth’s Hill sphere extends up to a radius of approximately 932,000 miles (1.5 million km). In contrast, the distance between 2023 FW13 and Earth is significantly greater, measuring around 1.6 million miles. This substantial gap in proximity sets the two apart.
Alan Harris, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, explained that the loop’s dimensions, which span about 0.18 astronomical units in radius, are so expansive that Earth’s influence on its motion is essentially negligible. This highlights the independent nature of 2023 FW13’s orbit.