New 'mini-moon' discovered orbiting Earth

 khaleejtimes.com  02/27/2020 11:22:44  2  Web Report

Web Report

Filed on February 27, 2020
mini-moon, Earth, Astronomers

Astronomers spotted a tiny asteroid orbiting our planet for three years and confirmed it as a mini-moon.

Nasa-funded Catalina Sky Survey discovered the washing machine sized asteroid, called 2020 CD3, and is only the second one to orbit Earth.

The asteroid is six to 12 feet in diameter and has a surface brightness of C-type asteroids, which are carbon rich and very common, reported Daily Mail.

Astronomers Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne spotted the asteroid on February 15, and spotted four times by February 17. Following the sightings, experts had enough evidence to confirm the asteroid is orbiting Earth.

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

Wierzchos shared in a tweet and wrote: 'BIG NEWS. 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'.

The Minor Planet Center, a branch of the International Astronomical Union classified the asteroid as a temporarily captured object.

The team at Catalina Sky Survey, based at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab in Tucson, believes the mini-moon has been orbiting Earth for about three years. It first appeared in Earth's gravity last year when it fell from the sky over Australia in August 2016. It was a fireball, first spotted by Australia's Desert Fireball Network and astronomers thought it was a normal meteor.

However researchers studying its trajectory said the fireball actually circled the Earth before losing orbit, making it a mini-moon. Prior to this one, only one other mini-moon has ever been observed with a telescope and it orbited the Earth for 11 months before flying off into space.

Our Moon is 2,000-miles in diameter and has orbited the Earth for four billion years, while a mini-moon is thought to orbit the planet for less than a year before flying off in space as an asteroid or falling to Earth as a meteor fireball.


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