tech2 News StaffFeb 28, 2020 11:37:13 IST
The moon has been a muse for writers, singers, poets, historians and scientists alike. It now seems that it will have to, for a temporary period, share its attention with a newly discovered minimoon.
A minimoon, according to Live Science, is a temporarily captured object, like a space rock, that got caught in Earth’s orbit for several months or years before shooting off into the distant solar system again (or burning up in our planet’s atmosphere).
Researchers from the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona have found 2020 CD3, a small, rare celestial object that has gotten caught in earth’s orbit and is circling our planet. Making it the earth’s natural satellite and thus, our second moon. We can’t wait for some singer to make a rhyme for this little guy.
It is around 1.9-3.5 metres in diameter and has the surface brightness of a typical carbon-rich asteroid. Amateur astrophysicist Tony Dunn tweeted out that this minimoon has been orbiting earth from the past three years and it could be leaving the orbit anytime this year, somewhere around April. It will then continue along its way and go on to orbit the sun.
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
Astronomers believe that at any given point in time, there is at least one minimoon that is orbiting around the earth. So what’s the big deal about this one?
Well, barring one instance, we haven’t seen these other objects. In fact, this is only the second time we have been able to spot a minimoon. The first time astronomers saw a minimoon was in 2006 and that asteroid was called 2006 RH120. It was around 2–3 metres in diameter and orbited around the earth for 18 months. However, this asteroid orbits the sun and one every 20 years comes close enough to the earth to enter its orbit through what is called a temporary satellite capture.
A senior research specialist from NASA and the University of Arizona, Kacper Wierzchos was the first scientist to announce this discovery on 26 February.
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
The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center made an announcement about this discovery as well.
“Orbit integrations indicate that this object is temporarily bound to the Earth. No evidence of perturbations due to solar radiation pressure is seen and no link to a known artificial object has been found. Further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged.”
Since then, the existence of this object has been confirmed by other observatories. However, more analysis is needed to confirm that the minimoon is a rock from space and not some junk in space that is floating around the abyss.
Twitter users had something to say about this new addition:
Go home moon.. Your drunk.
— Erich Toven (@ectoven) February 27, 2020
— Kacper Wierzchos (@WierzchosKacper) February 27, 2020
Hey there lil’ guy!
— Pikacha Twentyfive (@Pikacha25) February 27, 2020
Are we sure it’s not an actual car? pic.twitter.com/fsxLk6Xhtz
— Jared Throneberry (@iamnotjared) February 26, 2020
I shall name him…. “mini Moon” pic.twitter.com/EbOlAHxNXE
— David Kipping (@david_kipping) February 26, 2020
Baby MOON, doo-doot Doot-doo-doot!
— Mark Lipka (@MarkLipka1) February 27, 2020
Helllllooo sweetie! Welcome to the neighborhood.
— Clio Dunn (@ClioDunn) February 26, 2020
Earth: “Can I keep him?”
— Wind12 (@cirrus_1984) February 26, 2020
— Mr Django (@MRxDJANGO) February 27, 2020
Looks like the minimoon got onto Twitter
— Björn Seine (@TheDragonsForce) February 27, 2020
A name change?
We should name it as ”moony”
— Berkay Gürvardar (@BerkayGurvardar) February 27, 2020
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