Tunguska’s Revenge and Moons

I’m a little late getting this posted.

It was a big day for Near Earth Objects last Friday. First a meteor blew up over Russia, then 2012 DA14 flew by inside the orbit of our geosynchronous satellites. Space, it turns out, isn’t so empty after all.

The funniest thing for me about the Russian meteor was watching the headlines and articles to see who used the words “meteor” and “meteorite” correctly. Some did.

Somebody must have it in for Russia. First Tunguska, now this. *rimshot*

Russian president Medvedev made a statement pointing out that this is why we need to have plans in place for meteors. (Typical politician, taking advantage of a disaster to push new policies into place.) Not to be pessimistic, but we didn’t know about the meteor until after we saw the videos on YouTube. It seems unlikely we’d be able to track something that small, unless we found it by pure luck.

This reminds me of a question I’ve had for a while now. (And I have not yet searched for an answer, so it might be a really dumb question.) When we look at the outer planets in our solar system, we seem to find more and more moons the closer we look (or the better our looking technology gets). According to Wikipedia at the time of this writing, Jupiter has 67, Saturn has “at least” 62, Uranus has 27, Neptune has 13, and even Pluto is up to 5. Well, if we keep finding these small rocks around the outer planets, why don’t we ever find any more rocks around the Earth? I mean, there’s The Moon, obviously, but why aren’t there a bunch of little tiny moonlets floating around up there? If lowly Pluto has five moons we can spot from here, surely we should be able to find more than one rock orbiting right over our heads!

I suppose the moon’s gravity gobbles up anything that the Earth tries to capture. And all these other planets probably formed with all the moons and moonlets around them to start with, whereas the Earth formed without a moon, and then The Moon smashed into us sometime later. (I think that’s the prevailing theory, at least.) Perhaps at that time it blew away any moonlets we had before.

(P.S. I did some cursory searching for an answer and I will summarize the reason by saying, “it’s because of astrophysics and stuff.”)

(P.P.S. I also found this NPR story which says Earth actually does have more than one moon occasionally. And you thought I was crazy to think that!)

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