A second ‘mini moon’ has been orbiting Earth and we only just noticed it

mini moon earth

Don’t look now — because you won’t be able to see it — but planet Earth has caught itself a new mini moon.

Discovered by a team of Arizona-based astronomers — Kacper Wierzchos and Theodore Pruyne — the mini moon is an asteroid that has been captured and brought under temporary control by Earth’s gravitational force.

It’s so small, in fact, that a family car could find it tricky parallel parking on its surface.

Astronomers believe the temporary moon, called 2020 CD3, has likely been orbiting Earth for the past three years, but will likely wriggle itself free from Earth’s confines by April.

That’s largely due to its unstable orbit (below tweet) as its pulled from various angles by the Earth and Sun.

2020 CD3 may be small, but it’s significant for astronomers. Only one other asteroid has been known to fall into Earth’s gentle but temporary grasp.

Dubbed 2006 RH120, Earth’s previous temporary moon is now enjoying a solar orbit, but fell into the clutches of Earth’s gravitational pull as recently as 2017.

The phenomenon is common across the Solar System too. Larger planets, like Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune, have “irregular satellites” — moons that have been captured by their host planet and enter stable orbits.

Feature image: Andy Walker/Memeburn

Andy Walker
More

News

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.