Astronomers have discovered that a natural satellite with a size of a car has been revolving out planet Earth for around 3 years. This natural satellite is named as 2020 CD3 and more commonly referred to as “mini-moon”.
Kacper Wierzchos this week tweeted, “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,”. Kacper Wierzchos is a researcher with the Catalina Sky Survey at Lunar and Planetary Lab in the University of Arizona.
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 orbit of 2020 CD3 shows that it entered our planet’s orbit around 3 years ago as it was confirmed by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) of International Astronomical Union.
Weirzchos said, “The object has a diameter between 1.9 – 3.5 metre (6.2 and 11.5 feet) assuming a C-type asteroid albedo. But it’s a big deal as out of approximately 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),”.
MPC said that mini-moon’s orbit integrations show that “this object is temporarily bound to the Earth” and added that as of now “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,”.
On Thursday, an article was published in The Conversation, Professor of Planetary Geosciences, David Rothery, at The Open University in Britain defined that mini-moons such as this one come and go, and it is probable that this newly found object is on its final revolutions before going away.
Mini-moons do not orbit a planet for long as the gravitational pulls from the planet’s permanent moon and Sun make their orbits unsteady.
Rothery said that the initial approach of this mini-moon towards Earth suggests that it was captured into the orbit at a greater distance than that of Earth’s permanent Moon which is 384,400 kilometres away from Earth on an average.
Astronomers believe that at any given point, Earth has at least 1 mini-moon orbiting it however, they go undetected owing to their small size.
Until now, only one other such satellite has discovered which was a 3 feet wide asteroid called 2006 RH120 which orbited out blue planet between 2006 and 2007 for 18 months.
This mini-moon, currently orbiting Earth named 2020 CD3 was discovered on the 15th February at the Mount Lemmon Observatory using a 1.52 metre telescope.