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There are how many moons???

If I were to tell you that the Earth had two moons, you’d prbably put me back in my box and stop playing with me for a while right!? But I’d be telling you the truth. And I’d even have the tense right – The Earth HAD two moons… now it has three!

I shit you not! In 1986 an asteroid (given the designation of : 3753) was discovered.. nothing special there, but in 1987 Astronomers realized that the rock was not just passing by – but that it in fact was in a bizzare ‘horse shoe shaped’ orbit around (sort of) the Earth.

Princeton University reasearcher Fathi Namouni, who rabbits on about this sort of thing, does just that:

“We found new dynamical channels through which free asteroids become temporarily moons of Earth and stay there from a few thousand years to several tens of thousands of years. Eventually these same channels provide the moons with escape routes. So the main difference between the moon (we’ve always known) and ‘the new moons’ is that the latter are temporary — they come and go, but they stay for a very long time before they leave.”

OK, so that’s two! The other ‘new moon’ was spotted reciently by a geek based in Ariziona by the name of Bill Yeung. When Billy discovered the object he hit speed dial and spoke to the folks at the Minor Planet Centre in Massachusetts who promplly slapped the yonny with the rego: J002E3 and made a post on their Near-Earth Object Confirmation webpage. (yeap – it’s a real page!) – At the moment boffins and astro-nerds all over the world are attempting to determine if J002E3 is a natural object of a chunk of space junk that the Yanks have left floating around up there. Although it is not displaying changes in brightness that you’d expect to see from a chunk of metal… if you were a geek that is!

So there you have it – Earths third moon is awaiting confirmation… Don’t say you never learn nothin when you come here….

Sources:

http://news.bbc.co.uk

http://cfa-www.harvard.edu

http://burtleburtle.net/bob/physics

http://www.space.com

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