Earth’s Minimoons: Opportunities for Science and Technology

Robert Jedicke, Bryce T: Bolin, William F. Bottke, Monique Chyba, Grigori Fedorets, Mikael Matias Sebastian Granvik, R. Lynne Jones, Hodei Urrutxua

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Twelve years ago the Catalina Sky Survey discovered Earth's first known natural geocentric object other than the Moon, a few-meter diameter asteroid designated 2006 RH120. Despite significant improvements in ground-based telescope and detector technology in the past decade the asteroid surveys have not discovered another temporarily-captured orbiter (TCO; colloquially known as minimoons) but the all-sky fireball system operated in the Czech Republic as part of the European Fireball Network detected a bright natural meteor that was almost certainly in a geocentric orbit before it struck Earth's atmosphere. Within a few years the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will either begin to regularly detect TCOs or force a re-analysis of the creation and dynamical evolution of small asteroids in the inner solar system. The first studies of the provenance, properties, and dynamics of Earth's minimoons suggested that there should be a steady state population with about one 1- to 2-m diameter captured objects at any time, with the number of captured meteoroids increasing exponentially for smaller sizes. That model was then improved and extended to include the population of temporarily-captured flybys (TCFs), objects that fail to make an entire revolution around Earth while energetically bound to the Earth-Moon system. Several different techniques for discovering TCOs have been considered but their small diameters, proximity, and rapid motion make them challenging targets for existing ground-based optical, meteor, and radar surveys. However, the LSST's tremendous light gathering power and short exposure times could allow it to detect and discover many minimoons. We expect that if the TCO population is confirmed, and new objects are frequently discovered, they can provide new opportunities for (1) studying the dynamics of the Earth-Moon system, (2) testing models of the production and dynamical evolution of small asteroids from the asteroid belt, (3) rapid and frequent low delta-v missions to multiple minimoons, and (4) evaluating in-situ resource utilization techniques on asteroidal material. Here we review the past decade of minimoon studies in preparation for capitalizing on the scientific and commercial opportunities of TCOs in the first decade of LSST operations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalFrontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences
Volume5
Number of pages19
ISSN2296-987X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2018
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

Fields of Science

  • 114 Physical sciences
  • minimoon
  • asteroid
  • NEO
  • ISRU
  • dynamics
  • RESTRICTED 3-BODY PROBLEM
  • MOON SYSTEM
  • VELOCITY DISTRIBUTION
  • SATELLITE CAPTURE
  • ASTEROIDS
  • OBJECTS
  • POPULATION
  • JUPITER
  • COMETS
  • ORBIT

Cite this

Jedicke, Robert ; Bolin, Bryce T: ; Bottke, William F. ; Chyba, Monique ; Fedorets, Grigori ; Granvik, Mikael Matias Sebastian ; Jones, R. Lynne ; Urrutxua, Hodei. / Earth’s Minimoons : Opportunities for Science and Technology. In: Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences. 2018 ; Vol. 5.
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author = "Robert Jedicke and Bolin, {Bryce T:} and Bottke, {William F.} and Monique Chyba and Grigori Fedorets and Granvik, {Mikael Matias Sebastian} and Jones, {R. Lynne} and Hodei Urrutxua",
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Earth’s Minimoons : Opportunities for Science and Technology. / Jedicke, Robert; Bolin, Bryce T: ; Bottke, William F.; Chyba, Monique; Fedorets, Grigori; Granvik, Mikael Matias Sebastian; Jones, R. Lynne; Urrutxua, Hodei.

In: Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, Vol. 5, 13, 24.05.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Earth’s Minimoons

T2 - Opportunities for Science and Technology

AU - Jedicke, Robert

AU - Bolin, Bryce T:

AU - Bottke, William F.

AU - Chyba, Monique

AU - Fedorets, Grigori

AU - Granvik, Mikael Matias Sebastian

AU - Jones, R. Lynne

AU - Urrutxua, Hodei

PY - 2018/5/24

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N2 - Twelve years ago the Catalina Sky Survey discovered Earth's first known natural geocentric object other than the Moon, a few-meter diameter asteroid designated 2006 RH120. Despite significant improvements in ground-based telescope and detector technology in the past decade the asteroid surveys have not discovered another temporarily-captured orbiter (TCO; colloquially known as minimoons) but the all-sky fireball system operated in the Czech Republic as part of the European Fireball Network detected a bright natural meteor that was almost certainly in a geocentric orbit before it struck Earth's atmosphere. Within a few years the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will either begin to regularly detect TCOs or force a re-analysis of the creation and dynamical evolution of small asteroids in the inner solar system. The first studies of the provenance, properties, and dynamics of Earth's minimoons suggested that there should be a steady state population with about one 1- to 2-m diameter captured objects at any time, with the number of captured meteoroids increasing exponentially for smaller sizes. That model was then improved and extended to include the population of temporarily-captured flybys (TCFs), objects that fail to make an entire revolution around Earth while energetically bound to the Earth-Moon system. Several different techniques for discovering TCOs have been considered but their small diameters, proximity, and rapid motion make them challenging targets for existing ground-based optical, meteor, and radar surveys. However, the LSST's tremendous light gathering power and short exposure times could allow it to detect and discover many minimoons. We expect that if the TCO population is confirmed, and new objects are frequently discovered, they can provide new opportunities for (1) studying the dynamics of the Earth-Moon system, (2) testing models of the production and dynamical evolution of small asteroids from the asteroid belt, (3) rapid and frequent low delta-v missions to multiple minimoons, and (4) evaluating in-situ resource utilization techniques on asteroidal material. Here we review the past decade of minimoon studies in preparation for capitalizing on the scientific and commercial opportunities of TCOs in the first decade of LSST operations.

AB - Twelve years ago the Catalina Sky Survey discovered Earth's first known natural geocentric object other than the Moon, a few-meter diameter asteroid designated 2006 RH120. Despite significant improvements in ground-based telescope and detector technology in the past decade the asteroid surveys have not discovered another temporarily-captured orbiter (TCO; colloquially known as minimoons) but the all-sky fireball system operated in the Czech Republic as part of the European Fireball Network detected a bright natural meteor that was almost certainly in a geocentric orbit before it struck Earth's atmosphere. Within a few years the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will either begin to regularly detect TCOs or force a re-analysis of the creation and dynamical evolution of small asteroids in the inner solar system. The first studies of the provenance, properties, and dynamics of Earth's minimoons suggested that there should be a steady state population with about one 1- to 2-m diameter captured objects at any time, with the number of captured meteoroids increasing exponentially for smaller sizes. That model was then improved and extended to include the population of temporarily-captured flybys (TCFs), objects that fail to make an entire revolution around Earth while energetically bound to the Earth-Moon system. Several different techniques for discovering TCOs have been considered but their small diameters, proximity, and rapid motion make them challenging targets for existing ground-based optical, meteor, and radar surveys. However, the LSST's tremendous light gathering power and short exposure times could allow it to detect and discover many minimoons. We expect that if the TCO population is confirmed, and new objects are frequently discovered, they can provide new opportunities for (1) studying the dynamics of the Earth-Moon system, (2) testing models of the production and dynamical evolution of small asteroids from the asteroid belt, (3) rapid and frequent low delta-v missions to multiple minimoons, and (4) evaluating in-situ resource utilization techniques on asteroidal material. Here we review the past decade of minimoon studies in preparation for capitalizing on the scientific and commercial opportunities of TCOs in the first decade of LSST operations.

KW - 114 Physical sciences

KW - minimoon

KW - asteroid

KW - NEO

KW - ISRU

KW - dynamics

KW - RESTRICTED 3-BODY PROBLEM

KW - MOON SYSTEM

KW - VELOCITY DISTRIBUTION

KW - SATELLITE CAPTURE

KW - ASTEROIDS

KW - OBJECTS

KW - POPULATION

KW - JUPITER

KW - COMETS

KW - ORBIT

U2 - 10.3389/fspas.2018.00013

DO - 10.3389/fspas.2018.00013

M3 - Review Article

VL - 5

JO - Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences

JF - Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences

SN - 2296-987X

M1 - 13

ER -