Earth has acquired a second moon, for the time being at least.
It’s not a particularly big, nor bright, one like in the picture above. Chances are you would have noticed if that were the case.
Instead, it’s about the size of a car and is actually a small meteor – designated 2020 CD3 – that has been captured by Earth’s gravitational field. Astronomers have locked on to our new neighbour and calculated that it’s probably been bound to Earth for the last three years.
It won’t stick around permanently. The last known case of an asteroid getting stuck in orbit around the planet occurred between September 2006 and June 2007 before it escaped back off into space.
And 2020 CD3 is already showing signs of striking off on its own.
‘It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak,’ Grigori Fedorets from Queen’s University Belfast in the UK, told New Scientist. Fedorets reckon it could break free of Earth as early as this April.
— Kacper Wierzchos (@WierzchosKacper) February 26, 2020
Obviously, calling this thing a ‘moon’ is probably a bit of an overstatement. Which is why the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center has diplomatically referred to it as a ‘Temporarily Captured Object’.
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