Published: Thu, February 27, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Astronomers discover mini-moon in Earth orbit

Astronomers discover mini-moon in Earth orbit

Unfortunately, according to orbital simulations, 2020 CD3 will depart some time in April 2020.

The body was first spotted by USA astronomers Theodore Pruyne and Kacper Wierzchos using a 1.52-metre (60 inch) telescope at Mount Lemmon Observatory near Tuscon, Arizona on February 15.

Mini moons are formally known as Temporary Captured Orbiters (TCO)-objects that are now looping the planet, but will eventually shove off and resume their trip around the sun.

If confirmed, this would be only the second known mini-moon to orbit the Earth, the other being 2006 RH120 (also known as 6R10DB9), which hung around from September 2006 to June 2007.

Astronomers say the Earth has drawn in a tiny asteroid and temporarily pulled it into orbit, in a phenomenon that has only been recorded once before.

The Minor Planet Center has announced that Earth now has two moons.

The Minor Planet Centre has just announced that the Earth has been orbited by a second moon for the past three years or so.

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The object was discovered by Kacper Wierzchos and Theodore Pruyne, researchers at the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), funded by NASA.

Now, it's a race for astronomers to find more information on the latest greatest rock in space. The mini-moon has a diameter between 1.9 meters and 3.5 meters based on his assumption that it's a C-type asteroid albedo. Well, they do; but majority don't hang around long enough to become minimoons.

We just got a new moon! However, this isn't the first mini-moon that researchers have found. Those observations were needed to refine an orbit for the object, and to confirm it does appear to be orbiting Earth.

Other claimed "moons" of the Earth are asteroids whose orbital period about the Sun averages out at exactly one year. Astronomers believe that the newly discovered mini-moon will be gone by Spring and what's even more surprising is the fact that it has been orbiting Earth for at least three years without being noticed.

The orbit of asteroid 2016 HO3 relative to the Sun (big loops) and relative to the Earth (small loops).

You read that right: no link to artificial objects has been found meaning this is likely a straggler space rock hurtling through the solar system, and not a gift from aliens or smugglers in space.

So while 2020 CD₃ is an interesting new discovery, don't expect a catastrophic collision or extra moonlight for that evening stroll.

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