TUCSON, AZ — Tucson astronomers have discovered a possible "mini-moon" orbiting Earth!
On February 15, Astronomers Kacper Wierzchos and Theodore Pruyne noticed and started to track an asteroid that is caught in Earth's orbit, and has been orbiting our planet for an estimated two to three years.
"These events are really rare," said Wierzchos, and astronomer at Cataline Sky Survey in Tucson. "This is maybe the second, maybe the third asteroid out of one million known that has entered the orbit of Earth."
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
Wierzchos said there is still a possibility that the "mini-moon" is a man-made object, but all signs point to the fact that this is a natural object. The "mini-moon" is considered small and is often compared to the size of a car.
"We probably capture and lose these tiny little things all the time," said Patrick Young, Associate professor of Astrophysics at Arizona State University. "The fact that we manage to see such a tiny thing is pretty impressive."
The "mini-moon" will only be around for a little while longer. Wierzchos said its trajectory will shoot it back out into space next month.