Possible New ‘Mini-Moon’ Detected in Orbit Around Earth

The possible new mini-moon, as observed during the night of February 15, 2020.
Image: Catalina Sky Survey

Astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey say they have detected a rare mini-moon around Earth. Sadly, we shouldn’t get too attached to our new natural satellite, as the rock—if that’s indeed what it is—will only hang around for a few months.

The mini-moon, dubbed 2020 CD3 and also known as C26FED2, was seen by astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona on February 15, 2020, reports EarthSky. Senior research specialist Kacper Wierzchos and research specialist Theodore Pruyne waited a few days to announce their discovery, as further observations were required to confirm the object as a mini-moon, or a Temporary Captured Orbiter (TCO).

The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center (MPC) formally announced the discovery, adding the TCO to its electronic circular on February 25, 2020. Observations made at other observatories “indicate that this object is temporarily bound to the Earth” and “no link to a known artificial object has been found,” according to the MPC, adding that “further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged.”

Though rare, our planet occasionally hosts a temporary mini-moon—a tiny asteroid that loops around Earth for a short while until it breaks free and ventures back into deep space, where is resumes its solo journey around the Sun.

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