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Scientists Confirm Existence Of Dust 'Moon' Floating Around Earth

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An artist's rendition of the Kordylewski clouds at night time. A team of astronomers has just proven the existence of Kordylewski clouds decades after it was proposed by Kazimierz Kordylewski. In a study, they confirmed that the dust clouds are located within the L5 between the Earth and the Moon.   ( Royal Astronomical Society )

A team of astronomers has confirmed that there are two faint dust satellites floating about 400,000 km away from Earth.

A new study investigates a decades-old report by Kazimierz Kordylewski who, in 1961, proposed the existence of ghostly clouds that form between the Earth and the Moon. However, because it is so faint, it was difficult to observe and, therefore, the work caused controversy at the time.

In a new study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, astronomers from Hungary proved the existence of these clouds.

A Search For Mysterious Clouds

Lagrange points, named after astronomer/mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange, are gravitational points between two celestial bodies where objects can get captured. Between the Earth and its Moon, there are five Lagrange points — including L4 and L5 which were predicted by Lagrange himself in 1772. These two gravitational points form a triangle in between the Earth and the Moon, moving around the planet as the natural satellite moves in orbit.

The dust cloud, which Kordylewski reported in 1961, is located at L5.

In a paper submitted earlier this year, a team led by Gábor Horváth of Eötvös Loránd University created a mathematical simulation to figure out how dust clouds will be formed and how they might be detected from Earth. They found that a dust cloud, even a temporary one, is totally possible within in the L5. 

The astronomers then set up to find the dust cloud in L5. The team headed to a private observatory in Hungary and used a linearly polarizing filter system attached to a camera lens and a CCD detector. 

Finding Kordylewski's Clouds

After months of searching, they finally found the clouds. From the images they obtained from the observatory, the team saw polarized light reflected from dust that extends well beyond the camera lens' field of view. This is consistent with the measurements from a separate previous study conducted by a team of Russian scientists. 

"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," stated Judit Slíz-Balogh, one of the authors of the paper. "It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor."

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