Earth Has Had A Second Moon for THREE Years—Is It Here to Stay?
Our moon has many phases that guide us through the night. However, just as its face is always changing, so is the space around it. Our planet has had a second moon for three years, but is it here to stay? Researchers at the Minor Planet Centre have announced this recent discovery on February 15.
US astronomers used a 60-inch telescope at Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona. Upon further investigation, a simulation was done to calculate the ‘mini-moon’s orbit and duration.
Scientists at the Minor Planet Center have named this new visitor 2020 CD₃ and claim it will not last in Earth’s orbit for much longer. Due to its petite size of one to six meters long (3-18 ft), it is just about the size of a car. It is likely to be hurled out of orbit this spring.
In fact, astronomers believe 2020 CD₃ was part of the earth-crossing asteroids whose orbit crosses our planet. Rather than colliding and crumbling within Earth’s atmosphere, it was captured in orbit
Polite Visitors Never Overstay Their Welcome
It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak,” says Grigori Fedorets at Queen’s University Belfast in the UK. This mini-moon is likely to escape Earth’s orbit in April.
This isn’t the first time Earth has housed a second ‘mini-moon.’ According to a 2011 study, the Earth acquires mini-moons more often than expected. They’ll typically make up to one loop around the Earth before getting pushed out of orbit. For now, Earth is home to its terrestrial inhabitants and its primary moon.
While news of a second moon strikes as exciting, at first, don’t get too attached. These foreign bodies are not large enough to fall into harmony with the gravitational pulls around them. The sun, moon, and Earth are bound to make things unstable for little visitors. However, it’s safe to say phenomena like this occur once in a very blue moon.