Mystery of 'second moon' solved

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Scientists confirmed yesterday that Earth's mysterious "second moon" discovered by an amateur astronomer was debris from one of the Apollo missions 30 years ago.

Scientists confirmed yesterday that Earth's mysterious "second moon" discovered by an amateur astronomer was debris from one of the Apollo missions 30 years ago.

Reflected light from the object, named JOO2E3, was consistent with the white paint used on the Saturn V rocket that blasted men to the Moon.

The object was discovered on 3 September by amateur astronomer, Bill Yeung, who spotted it through a telescope from southern California.

News of the rogue lunar observation quickly spread among sky watchers. Experts calculated that the object had been orbiting the Sun until April, when it was captured by the Earth's gravity.

It's small size and unusual orbit suggested it was a piece of man-made "space-junk" rather than an asteroid or other natural object.

One theory was that it was a piece of one of the Saturn V rockets and yesterday astronomers at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory provided convincing evidence that the object was an Apollo rocket part. By analysing the reflected light from JOO2E3 they were able to work out the chemical composition of its surface. It turned out to be white paint. Dr Carl Hergenrother said: "Rather than looking like a known asteroid, the colours were consistent with the spectral properties of an object covered with white titanium oxide paint (TiO). The Apollo Saturn S-IVB upper stages were painted with TiO."

Other experts took infrared readings of the object which confirmed the chemical signature of JOO2E3 was "a dead ringer" for titanium oxide.

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