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Tech & Science A 'mini-moon' has been orbiting the Earth for three years — but astronomers say it will not be around forever

12:06  27 february  2020
12:06  27 february  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Earth has a new mini - moon : Asteroid the size of a washing machine has been orbiting Earth for the past three years . Astronomers have spotted a new visitor in Earth ’s gravity – a mini - moon . NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey discovered a temporarily captured asteroid, called 2020 CD3, which has

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The 'mini-moon' is likely to be thrown back into space later this year. (Twitter: Kacper Wierzchos) © Provided by ABC NEWS The 'mini-moon' is likely to be thrown back into space later this year. (Twitter: Kacper Wierzchos)

Astronomers say the Earth has drawn in a tiny asteroid and temporarily pulled it into orbit, in a phenomenon that has only been recorded once before.

The asteroid, which has been named 2020 CD3, is called a "mini-moon" by some astronomers because it has been captured by Earth's gravitational pull.

The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Centre (MPC) said the object was a "temporarily captured object" (TCO).

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  Possible New 'Mini-Moon' Detected In Orbit Around Earth Astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey say they have detected a rare mini-moon around Earth. Sadly, we shouldn’t get too attached to our new natural satellite, as the rock—if that’s indeed what it is—will only hang around for a few months. The mini-moon, dubbed 2020 CD3 and also known as C26FED2, was seen by astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona on February 15, 2020, reports EarthSky.

A visiting mini - moon is circling Earth , according to astronomers who discovered the cosmic squatter in our planet's orbit . The object measures about 6 feet to 11 feet across, and its orbit suggests that it entered Earth 's orbit around three years ago.

The asteroid is expected to continue orbiting Earth for a few more months before breaking free and venturing back into deep space, where it will resume its The fireball was first spotted by Australia's Desert Fireball Network in August 2016 and at the time astronomers thought it was a normal meteor.

It is orbiting at a distance of more than 150,000 kilometres, or a little more than the average distance from the Earth to the Sun, and takes 377.8 days to complete each orbit.

"Orbit integrations indicate that this object is temporarily bound to the Earth," an MPC circular announcing the asteroid read.

"No evidence of perturbations due to solar radiation pressure is seen, and no link to a known artificial object has been found.

"Further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged."

The object was discovered by Kacper Wierzchos and Theodore Pruyne, researchers at the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), funded by NASA.

The astronomers had been using a 1.52-metre telescope at the Mount Lemmon Observatory near Tucson, Arizona on February 15.

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Earth 's relationship with the moon is not a monogamous one. Scientists identified a second, mini - moon orbiting our planet in 2016 that has probably been around for about 100 years , said This moon isn't the only " mini - moon " orbiting Earth either. A group of international astronomers

Astronomers discovered a ' minimoon ' that's been orbiting Earth for about three years , and may soon leave our planet's orbit . A small asteroid has been orbiting Earth for 3 years , astronomers say . While astronomers suspect there is at least one minimoon circling Earth at any given time

The CSS helps NASA track near-Earth objects that could be potentially hazardous to the planet.

Forecasts say 2020 CD3 will stick around until April 2020

Mr Wierzchos said the chunk of carbonaceous rock was relatively small, with a diameter between 1.9-3.5m, and had been in earth's orbit for three years.

"But it's a big deal as out of [approximately] 1 million known asteroids, this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth," he said.

"The object has just been announced by the MPC and its orbit shows that it entered Earth's orbit some three years ago."

An orbit simulator based off MPC data showed the object orbiting Earth in unstable patterns and eventually being pushed back out into space by April 2020.

While asteroids pass Earth frequently, it is rare for them to be drawn into the Earth's gravity and remain in orbit for an extended period of time.

Most space rocks are either drawn into the Earth's atmosphere and burn up upon entry, or partially orbit the Earth before their velocity carries them elsewhere.

In 2006, the first TCO, asteroid 2006 RH120, was also discovered by the CSS and lingered in Earth's orbit for a year before being hurled back out to space in 2007.

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