In the atmosphere above Earth, scientists used the Catalina Sky Survey have captured what might be a minimoon. The cosmic feature has been dubbed 2020 CD3 and is a tiny piece of likely carbonaceous rock, measuring somewhere between 6.2 and 11.5 feet in diameter.
The most intriguing part, however, is that the minimoon has been in orbit for almost three years already. The close space object is defined as a busy area, with lots of asteroids running past. Scientists estimated that there are only 22,211 due to asteroids’ small dimensions and their reckless, uncertain performances.
The finding is surprising but not a novelty, per se. And that because Earth and other planets capture small rocks, known now as minimoons, sometimes.
Earth’s New Minimoon Features
Earth could slurp many rocks flying around, but most of them don’t stay too much to become minimoons. However, these temporarily detected space objects are incredibly intriguing. They usually reach the atmosphere where they are burned instantly, becoming fantastic fireballs.
But there are events when they stay a little bit longer for a partial orbit before their speed carries them upwards and onwards. According to supercomputer simulation back in 2012 comprising 10 million virtual asteroids, a small number of only 18,000 got detected in our planet’s orbit. So, they are hard to notice, but that’s because they’re super-rare.
There have been a lot of minimoon versions, even two fireballs with slow speeds that indicated an orbital source, but only one was confirmed – an asteroid dubbed 2006 RH120 that circled Earth for almost a year back in 2006. Another possible minimoon, 469219 Kamo’oalewa, that was in orbit around the Sun and close to Earth.
2020 CD3 differentiate from any other events, but only because it provides an efficient chance for asteroid exploration. Unfortunately, its stay will come at an end in April. The simulations and other measurements could be incorrect, but for such a thing, scientists need more time to examine it.