Julia Poska| November 9, 2018
They’ll never light up the night sky or pull in the tides, but two additional moons orbit the earth, invisible to the naked eye. A team of Hungarian scientists captured images of them for the first time this year.
The reported the discovery in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society September 1, though the media only picked up the story this week.
According to Universe Today, a moon is defined as “a celestial body that makes an orbit around a planet,” like a “natural satellite.” The big, round rock commonly known as “the moon” certainly fits this definition, as do the two newly discovered moons, though they look vastly different.
These moons are clouds of tiny dust particles, not solid bodies, according to a recent National Geographic feature. They are each about nine times wider than the Earth’s diameter, and orbit at about the same distance from the planet as our regular moon.
“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, told National Geographic.
The clouds are so faint that astronomers were unable photograph them until now, with special Polarized lenses on their cameras, though they’ve suspected the moons’ existence since the 1950s. Kazimierz Kordylewski, a Polish astronomer whom the moons have been named after, thought he saw one in 1961, but was unable to prove it.