February 26 2020, 8:29 pm
Researchers at the Catalina Sky Survey, a NASA-funded project, discovered an asteroid called 2020 CD3, which has been orbiting the Earth for about three years. It is estimated that the small cosmic object is approximately 1.8 to 3.6 meters in diameter and has a surface brightness similar to C-type asteroids, which are rich in carbon and very common.
The 2020 CD3 was seen in the night sky on February 15 by astronomers Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne. The “mini moon” had been observed four times before, which was enough evidence for experts to confirm that it is orbiting our planet.
“GREAT NEWS. The Earth has a new object temporarily captured: a possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3. On the night of February 15, my teammate Teddy Pruyne and I found an object of magnitude 20, ”Wierzchos shared in a tweet on February 25, after the Center for Minor Planets, a branch of the International Astronomical Union classify the asteroid as “an object captured temporarily”.
The specialist said that the discovery is “great news” because of approximately 1 million known space rocks, this is “only the second asteroid known to orbit the Earth (after 2006 RH120, which was also discovered by Catalina Sky Survey) ”
The cosmic intruder was officially listed by the Center for Minor Planets of the International Astronomical Union on Tuesday. The organization, founded in 1947, collects observation data on asteroids and comets and other natural satellites in the solar system.
In its official designation, the IAU – for its acronym in English – said the observations “indicate that this object is temporarily attached to Earth.” The key, they say, is in the word “temporary”, because the star is expected to leave the Earth’s orbit in a few months and continue its journey through the solar system. The organization added: “There is no evidence of disturbances due to solar radiation pressure, and no link to a known artificial object has been found. It is strongly recommended to make more observations and dynamic studies. ”
The last asteroid to be trapped in Earth’s orbit was the 2006 RH120. The space rock, which orbits the Sun and passes near the Earth every few decades, was captured by the planet’s gravity in June 2006 and remained until around September 2007, before it returned to the solar system.
More information about the mini-moon could be revealed in the coming weeks and months, as astronomers continue to observe the object. The Catalina Sky Survey aims to scan the cosmos to discover and track near-Earth objects, particularly those that could pose a threat.