The FINANCIAL — Astronomers from the University of Arizona, United States, discovered a tiny new moon. The mini-moon is a space rock that has found itself bound in an Earth orbit. New mini-moon is probably between 1.9 meters and 3.5 metres across, which is around the same size as a mid-size car.
That big crescent that will be hanging in the night sky this week isn’t the only natural moon circling our planet. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has cataloged a new “temporary captured object:” an asteroid that’s been doing a residency as our very own mini-moon. This second satellite was discovered on February 15. For now it’s simply known by its catalog entry: 2020 CD3. Astronomer Kacper Wierzchos wrote: “It’s a big deal as out of (around) 1 million known asteroids, this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth,” as reported by Forbes.
The rare discovery was made by Kacper Wierzchos and Theodore Pruyne, research specialists for the Catalina Sky Survey, funded by NASA and the University of Arizona. The mini-moon is a space rock that has found itself bound in an Earth orbit. It is projected to circle the planet for anywhere from several months to a few years before it slips away or falls toward the surface, burning up in the atmosphere, according to Sputnik news.
The cosmic interloper was officially cataloged by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center on Tuesday. The center, founded in 1947, collects observational data on asteroids, comets and natural satellites in the solar system. In its official designation, the IAU said observations “indicate that this object is temporarily bound to Earth.” The organization added: “No evidence of perturbations due to solar radiation pressure is seen, and no link to a known artificial object has been found. Further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged,” NBC News wrote.
The researchers say the new and perhaps temporary mini-moon is probably between 1.9 meters and 3.5 metres across, which is around the same size as a mid-size car. Incidentally, this isn’t the first-time earth has had an additional moon, albeit temporarily. The Mirror Planet Center monitors the presence of small bodies in space. The implication could be that this is an asteroid that was perhaps caught up by the earth’s gravitational pull and has been circling our planet ever since. Astronomers say that the new mini-moon orbit isn’t stable, and the 2020 CD3 could eventually catapult itself away from Earth. “It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak,” says Grigori Fedorets at Queen’s University Belfast in the UK, according to NEWS 18.
This is just the second asteroid known to have been captured by our planet as a mini-moon – the first, 2006 RH120, hung around between September 2006 and June 2007 before escaping. It circles our planet about once every 47 days on a wide, oval-shaped orbit that mostly swoops far outside the larger moon’s path, New Scientist reported.
On April 27, 2016, an asteroid called 469219 Kamo’oalewa was found to be a stable “quasi-satellite”. It’s not a true satellite, but instead orbits the Sun and circles around Earth as well in a “co-orbit”. Kamo’oalewa is also much bigger than 2020 CD3 at 135 feet. But both asteroids pale in comparison to the proper Moon, which is around 2,160 miles across, The Sun wrote.