Earth captures the new “mini moon,” astronomers say

The mass – about 1.9-3.5 meters (6-11 feet) in diameter – was observed by researchers Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne in the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on the night of February 15.

By the France-Presse Agency Washington

UPDATED ON 27 FEB 2020 2020 19:38 IST

The Earth has acquired a second “mini-moon” the size of a car, according to astronomers who saw the object surrounding our planet.

The mass – about 1.9-3.5 meters (6-11 feet) in diameter – was observed by researchers Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne in the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on the night of February 15.

“IMPORTANT NEWS. Earth has a new temporarily captured object / a possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3,” probably a C-type asteroid, “Wierzchos wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

The astronomer said it was a “big deal” because “this is only the second known asteroid in Earth orbit (after the 2006 RH120, which was also discovered by Catalina Sky Survey).”

Its trajectory suggests it entered Earth’s orbit three years ago, he said.

The Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory’s Minor Planet Center, which collects data on minor planets and asteroids, said in an ad that “no connection was found to a known artificial object,” meaning it is likely an asteroid captured by gravity. Earth.

“Orbit integrations indicate that this object is temporarily connected to Earth.”

Technical contractor Elon Musk said the object the size of the car was not the Telsa Roadster he launched into space in 2018, which now orbits the Sun.

“It’s not mine,” he wrote on Twitter.

Earth’s new neighbor is not in a stable orbit around the planet and is unlikely to be around for very long.

“It’s moving away from the Earth-Moon system as we speak,” Grigori Fedorets, a researcher at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, told New Scientist and will likely escape in April.

The only other known asteroid in Earth orbit, 2006 RH120, orbited the planet from September 2006 to June 2007.

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