Does Earth Have a New Moon? Shocking Discovery

Meet our mini-moon an asteroid pulled into orbit around the Earth

Kacper Wierzchos Catalina Sky Survey Meet our mini-moon an asteroid pulled into orbit around the Earth

The only other asteroid known to orbit Earth, 2006 RH120, rotated the planet from September 2006 to June 2007.

The new Moon, however, is extremely tiny, estimated to have a diameter panning a maximum of six meters, and is essentially an asteroid.

You read that right: no link to artificial objects has been found meaning this is likely a straggler space rock hurtling through the solar system, and not a gift from aliens or smugglers in space.

The object was discovered by two astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey - Dr Kacper Wierzchos and Dr Theodore Pruyne, on February 15. The first one, known as 2006 RH120, occasionally enters Earth's orbit before the planet's gravity flings the object back onto its path around the sun. While they orbit near us, they don't orbit us.

"Orbit integrations indicate that this object is temporarily bound to the Earth", according to the announcement on its site.

A small asteroid has been orbiting Earth for 3 years, astronomers say.

Numerous planets in our solar system have multiple moons, and some even have dozens of large objects that revolve around them. At this point, it's unclear exactly how long the rock will hang around, but for now, it's Earth's newest buddy.

Often, asteroids passing by near-Earth's neighborhood get captured by the planet's gravity but do not last long enough to be categorized as mini-moons.

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These are known as "quasi-satellites" of the Earth.

As the Minor Planet Center now reports to the International Astronomical Union, more than 50 observations would mean the existence of the body name 2020 CD3 confirmed.

An orbit model developed by Tony Dunn, an amateur astrophysicist, estimates that 2020 CD3 could be making its exit from Earth's orbit as early as April.

Only one other mini-moon has ever been observed with a telescope and it orbited the Earth for 11 months before flying off into space.

Space enthusiasts are over the moon about this celestial discovery.

What's next: A lot more observations.

Even though mini-moons are rarely discovered, a University of Hawaii study in 2011 calculated that there should be at least one asteroid with a diameter of at least one metre orbiting Earth at any given time.

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