Astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey yesterday declared they’d found a second natural satellite circling the Earth. It looks like our planet and its long-standing partner Luna have chosen to explore polyamory.
The newcomer is a small asteroid that was snagged in the Earth‘s orbit where it now lives as a temporary “mini-moon.” Scientists discovered the new moon last week but wanted to verify that it wasn’t an artificial satellite or random space junk. It may still turn out that the satellite is artificial but all indications so far show it’s the real deal.
The Catalina team explained the information in a tweet featuring an accompanying video showing Earth‘s new moon 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 Earth‘s new companion has an unusual orbit but there’s small cause for concern: it’s only about the size of a compact car.
These events are rare, but this isn’t the first time Earth‘s managed to pull another moon. Scientists discovered another one 14 years ago and it’s logical to expect such events have happened for as long as the Earth‘s been around.
Earth‘s dalliances with other moons are also temporary. Within a matter of months, the new moon will break free of the Earth‘s grip and bid us all a fond farewell as it hurtles off into space to continue boldly going wherever asteroids go.
Aside from the great factor of knowing we’re currently living on a planet with two moons, the occurrence also represents an event for scientists to study asteroids and how they interact with planets up close.