Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski claimed in 1961 to have observed two dust clouds – what one might call “dust moons” orbiting the Earth. 57 years later, a team of astronomers and physicists of the Budapest Eötvös Loránd Science University (ELTE) have confirmed the find.
The team consisted of Judit Slíz, András Barta and Gábor Horváth.
“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,” Slíz said.
“It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor.”
Kazimierz Kordylewski on the terrace of the Jagellonian University observatory in Krakow, 1964 (public domain image).
The two dust clouds exist at the L4 and L5 Lagrange points of the Earth-Moon system. Lagrange points are regions where the gravitational forces of two larger bodies are in balance, meaning that smaller bodies will remain in position relative to the two larger bodies.
The hidden moons could now be used to store pollution from Earth or serve as transfer stations for manned missions into deep space, the scientists said.
Title image: The Lagrange points of the Earth-Moon system.