It turns out the moon is not the only object circling the planet. Earth has captured a tiny cosmic object and pulled it into orbit – and it may be a mini-moon.
The moon is Earth’s major natural satellite, and there are more than a million known asteroids.
But astronomers believe they may have discovered a second asteroid – called 2020 CD3 – to temporarily orbit the Earth. Asteroids which orbit the planet are referred to as mini-moons.
Kacper Wierxchos, a researcher at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, made the discovery with his colleague Theodore Pruyne.
He hailed the rare sighting as “big news” and tweeted: “The object has a diameter between 1.9 – 3.5m assuming a C-type asteroid albedo.
“But it’s a big deal as out of one million known asteroids, this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth.”
The pattern of its trajectory shows it entered Earth’s orbit around three years ago.
The first asteroid to get caught in Earth’s orbit was the 2006 RH120 which circled the planet between September 2006 and June 2007 before moving away.
The new mini-moon’s discovery was announced by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, which monitors small bodies in space.
“The object is temporarily bound to the Earth,” it said.
“Further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged,” it added… before it shoots off into the distant solar system again.