Why "Zoozve" Is Making Waves


Unveiling the Solar System's First Quasi Moon
Unveiling the Solar System's First Quasi Moon

In recent days, a Twitter thread by Radiolab host Latif Nasser has sparked an intriguing discussion about a peculiar celestial object labeled "Zoozve" on his 2-year-old's astronomy poster.

This mysterious entity, seemingly associated with Venus, has piqued the interest of many, including renowned astronomers.

However, upon investigation, it was discovered that "Zoozve" is not a moon, but rather an asteroid known as 2002 VE 68.

This fascinating space object holds the distinction of being the first quasi moon ever discovered in the Solar System.

Join us as we delve into the captivating realm of quasi moons, their unique orbits, and their connection to Venus and Earth.

The Enigma of "Zoozve"

Nasser's curiosity led him to search for information about the enigmatic "Zoozve." To his surprise, there were no references to such a moon, even among NASA's records. Perplexed, Nasser contacted the illustrator who had included "Zoozve" on the poster.

The illustrator explained that the name was derived from a list of moons in the Solar System. However, upon closer inspection, it became clear that "Zoozve" was, in fact, the provisional designation for object 2002 VE 68. This labeling system is based on the year of discovery and subsequent order.

The European Space Agency sheds light on the process, stating that the first letters of the designation represent the year, followed by a combination of two letters indicating the order of discovery.

Unveiling the Quasi Moon

2002 VE 68, the true identity behind the mislabeled "Zoozve," presents a fascinating phenomenon within the Solar System. Unlike regular asteroids, this celestial body boasts an unusual orbit that makes it stand out. As the Tuorla Observatory explains, 2002 VE 68 follows a path around the Sun, much like other asteroids.

However, what sets it apart is the duration of its orbit, which is almost exactly the same as Venus' "year." This synchrony in their orbital periods suggests that 2002 VE 68 and Venus are traveling around the Sun in near-lockstep, akin to synchronized divers in the Olympic Games. This remarkable discovery led to the identification of the first quasi moon in the Solar System.

The Quirks of Quasi Moons

Quasi moons, as the name implies, are not conventional moons. Instead, they orbit the Sun while being influenced by the gravitational pull of planets along their trajectory. These peculiar objects can come and go but leave a lasting impact on our understanding of the Solar System.

Since the groundbreaking discovery of 2002 VE 68, other quasi moons have been detected. Notably, Earth boasts two officially recognized quasi moons. Let's explore the intricacies of these quasi moons and their interactions with the planets they encounter.

Earth's Quasi Moons

While 2002 VE 68 may be the first quasi moon discovered in the Solar System, Earth itself is home to two officially recognized quasi moons. These temporary companions, known as 2006 RH120 and 2020 CD3, have provided scientists with valuable insights into the dynamics of quasi moons. Let's take a closer look at these intriguing celestial partners.

2006 RH120: Earth's Temporary Visitor

In 2006, astronomers spotted a small asteroid, later designated as 2006 RH120, which entered Earth's orbit. This tiny object, measuring only a few meters in diameter, temporarily became a quasi moon. Its stay lasted from 2006 to 2007 before eventually leaving Earth's gravitational grasp. The encounter with Earth altered its trajectory, propelling it back into an independent orbit around the Sun.

2020 CD3: A Recent Addition to Earth's Quasi Moons

In 2020, another fascinating quasi moon, named 2020 CD3, captured the attention of astronomers. This newfound companion, estimated to be around the size of a car, began its temporary sojourn around Earth. Initially, it was believed to be an asteroid passing by our planet.

However, detailed observations revealed its status as a quasi moon. Although its stay is expected to be short-lived, 2020 CD3 provides scientists with a valuable opportunity to study the behavior and characteristics of quasi moons.

The Origin of 2002 VE 68: A Journey through Time

While 2002 VE 68 has been orbiting the Sun for a considerable period, researchers speculate that it may have originated from a different location within the Solar System. Detailed computations suggest that this peculiar quasi moon has maintained its current orbital state for approximately seven millennia.

Furthermore, projections indicate that it will continue to follow its present trajectory for another five centuries. However, the question of its origins remains intriguing.

According to a paper penned by a team of astronomers, 2002 VE 68 was likely a near-Earth asteroid approximately 7,000 years ago. The gravitational influence of our planet propelled it into its current orbit, injecting it into a synchronic dance with Venus.

Although the possibility of a collision with Earth within the next 10,000 years is highly unlikely, close encounters with our planet, as close as 0.04 astronomical units (au), occur periodically every eight years.

The Complex Dance of 2002 VE 68

As researchers continued to study the orbit of 2002 VE 68, they uncovered a complex dance involving multiple celestial bodies. The quasi moon's evolution is not solely governed by Earth; the Moon and Mercury also contribute significantly to its dynamics.

Resonant behavior with Mercury, Venus, and Earth has been observed, highlighting the intricate interplay between these heavenly bodies. While an actual collision with Earth in the next 10,000 years is improbable, the intricate orbital path of 2002 VE 68 presents an ongoing celestial spectacle.

The tale of "Zoozve" and the subsequent revelation of 2002 VE 68 as the Solar System's first quasi moon have captivated the scientific community and the public alike. This peculiar celestial object, with its unique orbit and dance with Venus, offers a glimpse into the intricate dynamics of our cosmic neighborhood.

As scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of quasi moons, their interactions with planets, and their origins, we are reminded of the vastness and complexity of the Solar System. The discovery of quasi moons has expanded our understanding of celestial phenomena and opened new avenues for exploration and study.

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