Space enthusiasts are over the moon about this celestial discovery.
On Tuesday, researcher Kacper Wierzchos posted on Twitter that he and Theodore Pruyne, as part of the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey project in Tuscon, Arizona, observed that Earth has a second moon. The discovery was made on Feb. 15.
Though it won’t be accompanying the actual moon for much longer (it is expected to leave Earth’s orbit in April, according to CNN), it marks a rare outer-space occurrence, Wierzchos wrote, calling it “BIG NEWS” as he shared glimpses at the observations.
According to the scientist, it’s only the second asteroid known to orbit Earth. Wierzchos also noted that it likely entered Earth’s orbit three years ago.
The so-called “mini-moon,” which is roughly 6-11 feet in diameter and about the size of a car, has been named 2020 CD3.
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
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Minor Planet Center, based at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, announced the finding on its website, calling it a “temporarily captured object.”
“No evidence of perturbations due to solar radiation pressure is seen, and no link to a known artificial object has been found,” reads the listing. “Further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged.”
Pruyne told CNN that more observations are to come as they look into the origin of the object.
“Small objects like 2020 CD3 are often pulled in close to the Earth,” explained Pruyne. “This happens when the Earth intersects close enough to asteroids in orbit to the sun. If the object is close enough to the Earth, Earth’s gravity will pull on the objects, changing the object’s orbit.”