3 moons orbit the Earth, 2 of those are dust clouds: Revealed

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Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi : The decades long theory that three moon orbits the Earth has been confirmed as massive clouds of dust. A team of  astronomers and physicists say that elusive dust clouds move with the Earth and Moon at  three edges of a triangle, located at distance of 4,00,000 kilometres away from the Earth.

Scientists have considered a 1961 study by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski, who reported that he saw patches at the L4 and L5 Lagrange points. He speculated that these patches were dust clouds. The speculation, thus, has been confirmed now.

Also, many studies suggest that the dust clouds were traced to one of five ‘Lagrange points’ near the Earth-moon system. Lagrange points are located near two large celestial bodies (like the Earth and Moon, or Earth and Sun).  At these points, the combined gravitational pull of the two large objects perfectly cancels out the centripetal force of an object at that location. These points aren't always stable but are of immense value for space research. A spacecraft at a Lagrange point will need a minimal amount of fuel to maintain position

Two specific points, L4 anf L5 form an equal-sided triangle with the Earth and Moon, where the ‘Kordylewski clouds’ confirmed by the new study are located.  Lagrange points in space are neither fixed nor stable and are affected by external forces like fly-by comets or variations in the Sun’s gravitational pull.

In the Earth-Moon system, earlier research has identified L4 and L5 as places where space dust may collect temporarily. While these celestial dust bunnies were theorized in 1961 by Kordylewski, the task of confirming their existence as the Earth and Moon's constant companion proved tough till recently.

“The Kordylewski clouds are two of the toughest objects to find, and though they are as close to Earth as the Moon, are largely overlooked by researchers in astronomy,” Judit Slíz-Balogh, one of the study’s authors from the Royal Astronomical Society, told the press.

“It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbour.”

An image of the Lagrange Points shown using gravity wells. NASA's James Webb telescope is positioned in the L2 point, and the confirmed dust clouds are located in L4 and L5, equilateral to the Earth and Moon.