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Sign of the weird Earth, elusive "Dust Moons" finally discovered



  Evidence for the strange, elusive

scientists have found strange "dust moons" around the earth that track our planet from afar. In this picture the central area of ​​the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight inclined lines are traces of satellites. The white L5 point is the Lagrange point of the Earth and the Moon L5.

Photo credits: J. Slíz-Balogh

Dust clouds, orbiting the earth like moons, may have confirmed their existence after more than half a century of controversy, new research.

There are five points in outer space that balance Earth's gravity and the Moon. Two of these so-called Lagrange points, L4 and L5, form an equilateral triangle with Earth and Moon, moving around the Earth as the Moon orbits the planet. All objects on L4 or L5 may be in relatively stable locations, about 234,000 kilometers (384,000 kilometers) from both the Earth and the Moon, preventing any influence from the force of attraction of the Sun and other bodies.

There may be incidents between Lagrange points other body pairs and earlier research found more than a million asteroids at the points Sun-Jupiter L4 and L5 and the asteroid 201

0 TK7 at the point Sun-Earth L4. Earlier work also suggested that at the point Earth Moon L5 two dust clouds could exist, of which the Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski was first reported and named in 1961. [Earth Quiz: Do You Really Know Your Planet?]

Now the researchers claim that they could have finally confirmed this pair of dust clouds is real. The scientists presented their findings in two online studies on September 1 and October 1 in the Monthly Notices journal of the Royal Astronomical Society

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  Artistic representation of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (whose brightness was greatly increased) of observations.

Artistic representation of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (with greatly increased brightness) at the time of the observations.

Credit: G. Horváth

The Kordylewski clouds are exceptionally weak, and whether they can be seen with the naked eye or normal cameras depends heavily on the weather. As a result, many scientists have doubted their existence for decades, said Gábor Horváth, physicist at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and co-author in both studies, told Space.com.

The scientists first developed computer models of which Kordylewski clouds see how they formed and how the light scattered or reflected by these clouds could be detected. They focused on a feature of this scattered or reflected light, called polarization. All light waves can wave to the left and to the right, at any angle between them, up and down, and the scattered or reflected light is usually polarized in the same way, depending on the angle of scattering or reflection.

The researchers sought to detect the Kordylewski clouds with a digital camera at a private observatory in Hungary. The camera was equipped with polarizing filters that let in light only with certain polarizations.

"Now we find new evidence for the existence of Kordylewski dust clouds around the L5 point of the Earth-Moon system," Judit Sliz-Balogh, astronomer at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest and lead author of both studies, explained Space.com.

  Mosaic pattern of the polarization angle around the point L5 (white point) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the fields of view of the imaging polarimetric telescope, which were used to measure the polarization patterns of the Kordylewski dust cloud.

Mosaic pattern of the polarization angle around point L5 (white point) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the fields of view of the imaging polarimetric telescope, which were used to measure the polarization patterns of the Kordylewski dust cloud.

Photo credits: J. Slíz-Balogh

Images of the alleged position of a Kordylewski cloud revealed polarized light that was reflected by dust and far out of the field of view of the camera. This agrees with the scientists' predictions of what a Kordylewski cloud would look like.

"The Kordylewski clouds are two of the most difficult objects to be found, and although they are as close to Earth as the Moon, they are largely overlooked by astronomers." Sliz-Balogh said in a statement. "It is fascinating to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit next to our Moon neighbor."

Scientists can see if dust clouds are also present at the Earth-Moon L4 point, added Sliz-Balogh.

Given the stability of the L4 and L5 points of the Earth and the Moon, they are often considered as possible locations for space stations. Future research on Kordylewski clouds could show how stable they are and whether their dust at the L4 and L5 points poses a potential threat to equipment and astronauts.

Follow Charles Q. Choi on Twitter @cqchoi . Follow us @Spacedotcom Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com


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