Earth Has a New Mini-moon — but It Probably Won’t Stay Around Too Long (Video)
It looks like planet Earth has a new best friend.
In February, scientists announced that Earth acquired a new mini-moon that is hovering in our orbit. However, this may be a fleeting friendship as the same researchers also noted that our mini-moon friend won’t be around forever.
Research specialists Kacper Wierzchos and Theodore Pruyne — who work at the Catalina Sky Survey, a NASA-funded project at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory — discovered a tiny asteroid, known as 2020 CD3, orbiting Earth in a perfect pattern. According to CNN, it is only the second asteroid known to orbit Earth.
"Orbit integrations indicate that this object is temporarily bound to the Earth," the researchers explained in an announcement. "No link to a known artificial object has been found. Further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged."
The researchers also noted the asteroid is a rather tiny one, measuring somewhere between 6.2 feet and 11.4 feet in diameter, making it about the size of a car.
The team also explained to CNN, they plan to closely observe the object over the coming weeks to learn more about its origins and to develop a timeline of when it may leave Earth’s orbit.
So, how long do we have to spot this little guy from down here on Earth?
“It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak,” Grigori Fedorets, a scientist at Queen’s University Belfast in the UK, told New Scientist. He added it will likely escape sometime in April. At that time, it will likely return to a heliocentric orbit, which means it will return to orbiting the sun. Though hopefully it still writes letters or gives Earth a call every now and then to check in.