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Astronomers say Earth has a new mini-moon but it may not stay with us for long

The new Moon is extremely tiny, estimated to have a diameter panning a maximum of six meters, and is essentially an asteroid that might be breaking away from the Earth's orbit really soon

February 27, 2020 / 04:38 PM IST

Astronomers from the United States have found that planet Earth has had another Moon orbiting it for more than three years approximately.

The Minor Planet Centre announced the discovery of the celestial body on February 26 after calculating its orbit.

The Minor Planet Centre, working under the auspices of International Astronomical Unit, is the official worldwide organisation in charge of collecting observational data for minor planets, comets and outer irregular natural satellites of the major planets.

The new Moon, however, is extremely tiny, estimated to have a diameter panning a maximum of six meters, and is essentially an asteroid.

Scientists Theodore Pruyne and Kacper Wierzchos, who first spotted it on February 15 using the telescope at Mount Lemmon Observatory, believe the minimoon won’t be with us for too long.

They confirmed that the temporary moon that has been named 2020 CD₃, would be leaving the Earth’s orbit very soon, which could be as early as April 2020.

According to a report by The Conversation, 2020 CD₃ belongs to a category of asteroids whose orbits cross that of the Earth’s. From time to time, they come too close to the Earth or collide with it, but the result is never catastrophic, thanks to their size. These asteroids usually disintegrate in the atmosphere before hitting the Earth’s surface.

This minimoon, however, got captured into an orbit located at quite a distance from our permanent moon, while approaching the Earth. It is quite common for such asteroids to orbit the earth for a few years before breaking away to claim its own orbit around the Sun. The 2020 CD₃ is likely on its final loop, given it has been orbiting the Earth unnoticed for quite a few years now.

Moneycontrol News
first published: Feb 27, 2020 04:32 pm