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Astronomers confirm existence of two faint dust clouds orbiting Earth alongside the moon

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 26/10/2018 Cheyenne Macdonald For Dailymail.com

Researchers in Hungary have detected what could be a pair of elusive dust clouds (illustrated in the graphic above) orbiting just 250,000 miles from Earth, putting to rest a long-running debate on their existence © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Researchers in Hungary have detected what could be a pair of elusive dust clouds (illustrated in the graphic above) orbiting just 250,000 miles from Earth, putting to rest a long-running debate on their existence Researchers in Hungary have detected what could be a pair of elusive dust clouds orbiting just 250,000 miles from Earth, putting to rest a long-running debate on their existence.

The two pseudo-satellites were first reported in 1961 by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski, but remained controversial because they are so difficult to spot.

Now, scientists at a private observatory in Hungary say they’ve finally found the faint objects, revealing they sit in a semi-stable points that forms a triangle with the Earth and Moon.

The Kordylewski clouds, named after the researcher that first reported their existence, were finally confirmed with the use of linearly polarizing filter system, fitting on a camera lens and CCD detector at the observatory.

Polarizing filters transmit light with a particular direction.

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The clouds were said to sit in a region known as a Lagrange point, specifically in one dubbed L5. 

This is one of five points of stability in the Earth-Moon system, where gravitational forces lock objects in the vicinity in their relative position.

Back in 1961, Kordylewski observed two faint clusters at L5 – but, they haven’t been seen since. That is, until now.

‘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,’ says Judit Slíz-Balogh.

‘It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbour.’

a close up of a building: The clouds were said to sit in a region known as a Lagrange point, specifically in one dubbed L5 (shown above). This is one of five points of stability in the Earth-Moon system, where gravitational forces lock objects in the vicinity in their relative position © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The clouds were said to sit in a region known as a Lagrange point, specifically in one dubbed L5 (shown above). This is one of five points of stability in the Earth-Moon system, where gravitational forces lock objects in the vicinity in their relative position

In the new study, researchers led by Gábor Horváth of Eötvös Loránd University modeled the clouds to hone in on the best way to find them.

The team captured exposures of their purported location, revealing polarized light reflected from dust.

According to the team, the patterns line up with their earlier predictions, and Kordylewski’s initial observations.

After ruling out optical phenomena and other objects that could be mistaken for the clouds, the researchers say they’ve finally confirmed their existence.

The exact source of the dust clouds remains uncertain, though the experts suspect they are regions where interplanetary dust collects.

L5 and its counterpart L4 are being eyed as possibly locations for orbiting space probes, given their stability.

The new findings mean the dust will also have to be taken into consideration as these plans move forward, to determine whether the material poses a threat to equipment or astronauts.

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