U.S. Astronomers have detected a new rare mini-moon orbiting around Earth.
Our new asteroidal satellite will only hang around for a few months.
The mini-moon was dubbed 2020 CD3 but is and also known as C26FED2.
It was discovered by astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona on February 15, 2020.
BIG NEWS (thread 1/3). Earth has a new temporarily captured object/Possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3. On the night of Feb. 15, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne and I found a 20th magnitude object. Here are the discovery images. pic.twitter.com/zLkXyGAkZl— Kacper Wierzchos (@WierzchosKacper) February 26, 2020
The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center (MPC) added the mini-moon also known as a Temporary Captured Orbiter (TCO) on February 25, 2020.
Others observatories have validated the find, indicating “that this object is temporarily bound to the Earth and no link to a known artificial object has been found.”
What is a mini-moon?
Mini-moons are small asteroids that loops around Earth for a while before it breaks free and flies back into deep space.
The dimensions of the new celestial body orbiting Earth are described in the Tweet below:
(3/3) The object has a diameter between 1.9 – 3.5 m assuming a C-type asteroid albedo. But it's a big deal as out of ~ 1 million known asteroids, this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth (after 2006 RH120, which was also discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey).— Kacper Wierzchos (@WierzchosKacper) February 26, 2020
This is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth after 2006 RH120, also known as 6R10DB9, which was also discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey.
However some scientists say one of those TCO reportedly fell on Earth back in 2016.
According to the latest simulations, the new Temporary Captured Orbiter will leave Earth’s orbit in April 2020 and resume its normal orbit around the Sun.
Here's an animated GIF of our new mini-moon 2020 CD3, discovered by @WierzchosKacper. Rotating frame keeps the Earth/Sun line stationary. Orbital elements courtesy of IUA MPEC. https://t.co/dok3jn3G9hhttps://t.co/x1DXWLq2vm pic.twitter.com/O3eRaOIYjB— Tony Dunn (@tony873004) February 26, 2020
This is an extremely rare space event. The first mini-moon was discovered 14 years ago, and this may prove to be the second one. TCOs are rare, but of great scientific interest and could help us to better understand asteroids, how they form and also improve our ability to detect dangerous near earth objects in our Solar System. More space news on Strange Sounds or Steve Quayle. [Minor Planet Center, Earth Sky, Gizmodo]