US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — It has been revolving around our planet for three years, but this is noticed only now.
Asteroid 2020 CD3 was discovered on the night of February 15-16, 2020 by astronomers Theodore Pruyne and Kacper Wierzchos. Both researchers are part of the Catalan Sky Survey (CSS) – a project aimed at detecting near-Earth asteroids: including objects whose size exceeds 140 meters.
Some of the detected asteroids are classified as potentially dangerous – this means that their orbit allows them to approach the Earth at a distance that allows a collision, and their size is large enough to impact the planet, causing great damage.
Upon detection of 2020, CD3 had a 20th magnitude magnitude. It was captured by the Earth’s gravitational field and became a temporary satellite of our planet about three years ago. An asteroid is a carbon body with a diameter of 1.9 to 3.5 meters.
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
Despite the fact that the number of such objects in the Earth’s orbit can be measured in thousands, they are extremely difficult to detect due to their small size. In addition, most asteroids pass by our planet or burn out in its atmosphere. Computer modeling in 2012 showed that out of 10 million virtual asteroids, only 18 thousand fall into near-Earth orbit.
The main distinguishing feature of the 2020 CD3 was that it can be considered the second currently known temporary Earth satellite. The first such object was the asteroid 2006 RH120, which “accompanied” our planet for 18 months – from 2006 to 2007.
Here's an animated GIF of our new mini-moon 2020 CD3, discovered by @WierzchosKacper. Rotating frame keeps the Earth/Sun line stationary. Orbital elements courtesy of IUA MPEC. https://t.co/dok3jn3G9hhttps://t.co/x1DXWLq2vm pic.twitter.com/O3eRaOIYjB
— Tony Dunn (@tony873004) February 26, 2020
Such mini-moons are extremely promising for research. Sending spaceships to asteroids is expensive and time-consuming, and often requires overcoming vast distances. If the asteroid simply rotates around the Earth, it is much easier to get to it. However, in the case of 2020, CD3 may already be too late: if the researchers’ estimate is correct, the temporary satellite will leave the Earth’s orbit by April.
Contact us: [email protected]
Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.