Astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey yesterday announced theyd found a second natural satellite orbiting the Earth. It looks like our planet and its long-standing partner Luna have decided to explore polyamory.
The newcomer is a small asteroid that was apparently snagged in the Earths orbit where it now exists as a temporary mini-moon. Scientists discovered the new moon last week but wanted to confirm that it wasnt an artificial satellite or random space junk. It may still turn out that the satellite is artificial but all indications so far indicate its the real deal.
The Catalina team revealed the information in a tweet featuring an accompanying video showing Earths new follower making its way around us.
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
According to the astronomers, the Earths new companion has an erratic orbit but theres little cause for concern: its only about the size of compact car.
These events are rare, but this isnt the first time Earths managed attract another moon. Scientists discovered another one 14 years ago and its logical to assume such events have occurred for as long as the Earths been around.
Earths dalliances with other moons are also temporary. Within a matter of months the new moon will break free of the Earths grip and bid us all a fond farewell as it hurtles off into space to continue boldly going wherever asteroids go.
Aside from the cool factor of knowing were currently living on a planet with two moons (Martians: you arent so special anymore now), the occurrence also represents an opportunity for scientists to study asteroids and how they interact with planet-sized bodies up close.