‘Mini Moon’ captured in Earth’s orbit, astronomers find

Space Science

“2020 CD3” is a 6- to 12-foot asteroid that has been “captured” in Earth’s orbit for about 3 years. (Catalina Sky Survey / Twitter)

MYSTERY WIRE — I shall call him … Mini Moon.

Well, that might be a little too familiar, since we’ve only just met the 6- to 12-foot rock that is temporarily orbiting the Earth. It showed up undetected three years ago, and astronomers just got a fix on it the day after Valentine’s Day.

Since then, astronomers have designated it “2020 CD3.” But we’ll stick with Mini Moon.

The Feb. 15 discovery by the University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory’s Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson has generated a buzz among astronomers. A member of the team that discovered the asteroid has been posting photos of it on Twitter:

The “temporarily captured object” is documented in a new Minor Planet Electronic Circular published by the Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, which indicates the object is “temporarily bound to the Earth.”

Kacper Wierzchos called the discovery “a big deal,” and pointed out that “this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth (after 2006 RH120, which was also discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey).” There are about 1 million cataloged asteroids.

Astronomers aren’t sure how long the object will remain in Earth’s orbit.

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