Tumbling through Earth’s increasingly packed orbit are around 5,000 satellites, a large portion of a million pieces of human-made debris and just one affirmed natural object: the moon. Presently, stargazers working out of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory think they may have found a second natural satellite — or at least a temporary one.
Meet 2020 CD3, Earth’s most up to date conceivable “minimoon.”
A minimoon, otherwise called a temporarily captured object, is a space rock that gets caught in Earth’s orbit for a while or years before shooting off into the distant solar system once more (or burning up in our planet’s atmosphere).
While space experts suspect there is at least one minimoon circling Earth at some random time, these modest satellites are seldom found, likely on account of their moderately small size. Up to this point, just one affirmed minimoon has ever been detected: a 3- – foot-wide (0.9 meters) asteroid called 2006 RH120, which orbited Earth for 18 months in 2006 and 2007.
Presently, there might be a second. Kacper Wierzchos, a senior research specialist for the NASA and University of Arizona-funded Catalina Sky Survey, reported the disclosure of a new temporarily caught object via Twitter yesterday (Feb. 25). The object seems to quantify somewhere in the range of 6.2 and 11.5 feet (1.9 to 3.5 m) in diameter and has a surface brightness typical of carbon-rich asteroids, Wierzchos composed.
As per an orbital model by amateur astrophysicist and San Francisco secondary school physics teacher Tony Dunn, the potential minimoon has likely been trapped by Earth’s gravity for around three years now and could make its exit in April 2020, continuing its consistently planned journey around the sun.
In an ideal universe, departing minimoon would fly off and become trapped by the moon’s gravity, making a considerably rarer class of object: a moonmoon. Tragically, moonmoons stay just theoretical, and conceivable new minimoon accompanies its very own few provisos. While the object’s presence has since been affirmed by a few different observatories, further analysis is required to say for sure that the object is an extraterrestrial rock and not a huge shard of space junk.
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Stats Observer journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.