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We have few certainties when we look at the sky. Maybe the only ones that we have are that we are a small rocky planet, which orbits around a red dwarf, with a lovely natural satellite that we call Moon. Or maybe is there something wrong in this? Many artistically imagined a planet Earth with the rings, for example, or with two, three, four, ten moons. And what if this isn’t only an imagination? What if I’ll tell you that the Earth has a new small Moon. It’s call 2020 CD3, the small asteroid of just 3 meters of diameter that was “stucked” in the terrestrial gravity and that now orbits around us.
2020 CD3, the new moon of the planet Earth
To discover 2020 CD3 were the astronomous of the Catalina Sky Survey, in Arizona, that found it during their normal activity of the sky tracking. They so found out an unknow object that was orbiting around us and that was acting exactly like our moon. They first thought if it was or not an artificial satellite. This hypothesis was soon rejected. They, so, come to the conclusion that it must be an asteroid that, by passing next to our planet, was catched by the gravity force.
The next observations confirmed that it was right a small asteroid, of the diameter of just 3 meters, that became our second moon.
The discovery was published on the website of the Minor Planet Center, The Organisation of the International Astronomic Union. Other six observers all over the world observed and studied the object by coming to the conclusion that it’s been already three years that this small rock is stucked on our gravity.
Why wasn’t it see before?
It will enough to say that to find an object as big as a car in an infinite sky is like find a needle in a haystack. But that’s not all, the sky is constantly fathomed by all the terrestrial observatories and nothing escapes from their eyes. So how did 2020 CD3 hide itself for three years?
The space around the Earth is always very busy. There are about 20.000 asteroids that constantly pass next to us and sometimes some of them get catched by the terrestrial gravity. But they remain stucked for a really short time to not being considered some new mini moons. For this reason, 2020 CD3 is been unnoticed for a long time, hidden between these asteroids.
Now that it was discovered, though, they studied the orbit that pushed it until here, by calculating that it’s been already three years since when it arrived, but it won’t remain for a long time.
The new moon is a TCO
During all the checks and the calculations it was established that the new mini moon of the Earth is a TCO (Temporarily Captured Object). This means that it’s destined to break free from the terrestrial gravity and come back to go around the space.
It’s really a flaw to not have identified it before. The space agencies, infact, are always looking for this small gems. The missions to reach the asteroids belt between Mars and Jupiter are expensive and complicated. If then we try to orbit and, even, to land on one of it, we touch the limits of the impossible.
Landing, instead, on an asteroid catched accidentally by the Earth gravity, would be without any doubt easier.
But don’t be sad if you lost the chance with 2020 CD3, it will not be even the last or the first time that the Earth hosts a new moon. Last time was, in fact, RH120 that remained in the Earth gravity from September 2006 and June 2007. Let’s take a look to the sky and keep enjoying what the space can offer us.
This post is also available in: Italiano