Just when we thought we had a clear understanding of what’s going on up there in space, scientists have revealed the Earth has acquired a mini moon.
Astronomers announced that the object has been captured by Earth’s orbit and is now temporarily flying beside us in the solar system, just like our bigger and more well known moon.
The Minor Planet Center, which is part of the International Astronomical Union and names objects found in space, has hailed the minimoon ‘2020 CD3’.
Minimoon 2020 CD3 was found by Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne, astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on Saturday, February 15. Then it was observed for several days, allowing astronomers to learn more about it. Together, they gathered detailed images of the object as it moved around the Earth.
The examination of the moon revealed that the object appears to be between 6.2 and 11.5 feet in diameter. Discoverers said it is also shining exceptionally bright which suggests carbon-rich asteroids.
Although it has only recently been discovered, the object is thought to have been captured by Earth’s orbit three years ago, according to orbital simulations carried out by astronomer Tony Dunn, using data from the astronomers who discovered 2020 CD3.
On Tuesday, February 25, the existence of the rock was officially confirmed, when the Minor Planet Center designated it a ‘Temporarily Captured Object’ and gave it a new name.
The centre put out a statement saying the object ‘is temporarily bound to the Earth’, adding, ‘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.’
While there have been many asteroids spotted and tracked by astronomers, 2020 CD3 is only the second ever known to orbit Earth. The first, known as 2006 RH120, was spotted by scientists at the same institution.
An asteroid split in half above Australia in 2016 and lit up the entire sky. Astronomers have suggested this could also have been a minimoon, and it is very possible that there could be several others still orbiting Earth that are simply too small and dim to have been spotted by scientists yet.