So Earth Apparently Has Two, Extra Hidden 'Moons'

Emily Reily 6 Nov 2018

Astronomers and physicists from Hungary have just confirmed two "moons" made of dust that orbit the Earth, reports National Geographic. Unfortunately, astronauts won't be landing anywhere near them

The dust clouds have been here all this time

According to study co-author Judit Sliz-Balogh, these clouds of dust, called Kordylewski clouds, are very difficult to see. “It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor," Sliz-Balogh, of the Eotvos Lorand University of Hungary, says.

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Ghost moons, not actual moons

Giphy

The dust clouds are also being called "mini moons" or "ghost moons," and may have been around since ancient times. Astronomers have suggested for a long time that Earth could have something like this, but have only recently had the technology to capture images of it.

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This cosmic dust (like the dust seen here) has been nearby all along

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_Cosmic_Rose_with_Many_Names.jpg

The Kordylewski dust clouds were first seen in 1961 by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski, but back then the clouds were under contention. The dust clouds are about 250,000 miles away, about the same distance as the Moon is from Earth. But they are very faint.

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Uncovering the dirt on Kordylewski clouds

One astronomer likened the Kordylewsi clouds of dust and their movements, to the dirt kicked up from a moving car. "Think of them like the cloud of dust you get when a car drives along a dirt road," said astronomer Phillip Plait.

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Luckily, scientists have our back

Giphy | Korea

Each Kordylewski cloud is equal to 30 by 20 lunar disks in the night sky, or about 65,000 by 45,000 miles in size. This is almost nine times wider than Earth. We won't be graded on whether we can retain or understand this information.

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These itty bitty particles pack a punch

Giphy | Endemol Beyond

While the clouds themselves are massive, the singular particles that make up the clouds are only a micrometer wide. When sunlight hits these particles, they're given a subtle glow.

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Polarizing filters helped us see the light

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fire_And_Star_Light_(57859658).jpeg

Another physicist at Eotvos Lorand University, Gabor Horvath, explained it's been a struggle to see these particles. “It is very difficult to detect the Kordylewski clouds against the galactic light, star light, zodiacal light, and sky glow,” says Horvath.

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Space. The final frontier

Unsplash | Brett Ritchie

With this exciting news, our understanding of the universe just got a little bit brighter.

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