Asteroid Kamo‘oalewa’s journey from the lunar Giordano Bruno crater to Earth 1:1 resonance

Yifei Jiao, Bin Cheng, Yukun Huang, Erik Asphaug, Brett Gladman, Renu Malhotra, Patrick Michel, Yang Yu & Hexi Baoyin

Nature Astronomy, Published: 19 April 2024


“Among the nearly 30,000 known near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), only tens possess Earth co-orbital characteristics with semi-major axes ~1 au. In particular, 469219 Kamo‘oalewa (2016 HO3), an upcoming target of China’s Tianwen-2 asteroid sampling mission, exhibits a meta-stable 1:1 mean-motion resonance with Earth. Intriguingly, recent ground-based observations show that Kamo‘oalewa has spectroscopic characteristics similar to space-weathered lunar silicates, hinting at a lunar origin instead of an asteroidal one like the vast majority of NEAs. Here we use numerical simulations to demonstrate that Kamo‘oalewa’s physical and orbital properties are compatible with a fragment from a crater larger than 10–20 km formed on the Moon in the last few million years. The impact could have ejected sufficiently large fragments into heliocentric orbits, some of which could be transferred to Earth 1:1 resonance and persist today. This leads us to suggest the young lunar crater Giordano Bruno (22 km diameter, 1–10 Myr age) as the most likely source, linking a specific asteroid in space to its source crater on the Moon. The hypothesis will be tested by the Tianwen-2 mission when it returns a sample of Kamo‘oalewa. And the upcoming NEO Surveyor mission may help us to identify such a lunar-derived NEA population.”