On February 19, 2020, experts at the Catalina Sky Survey Astronomical Observatory in Arizona discovered a mini moon that was moving rapidly across the sky.
In the following days, astronomers from six other observatories around the world followed the object called 2020 CD3. The researchers calculated the satellite’s orbit and concluded that it was “trapped” in the Earth’s gravitational field about three years ago. The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center states that this celestial body is not a man-made object launched into space. Therefore, most likely, this is an asteroid, which fell into the gravitational field of the planet.
This is the second observed asteroid that has become a satellite of the Earth. The first such object named 2006 RH120, had been revolving around our planet from September 2006 to June 2007.
The new Earth satellite has dimensions from 1.9 to 3.5 meters (approximately, like a passenger car). It moves around the Earth along an elliptical trajectory, larger than the orbit of the Moon, and makes a complete revolution around the Earth in about 47 days.
The asteroid’s orbit is unstable, so by the end of 2020, CD3 will leave us.
“The orbit isn’t stable, so eventually 2020 CD3 will be flung away from Earth. It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak,” said GrigorI Fedorets from Queen’s University in Belfast, UK.
However, scientists created several simulations of the trajectory of the asteroid, and not all of them showed the same scenario. Therefore, astronomers will need more observations to accurately predict the future fate of the mini-satellite and determine its origin.