Scientists have discovered what they believe is an adorable ‘minimoon’ orbiting our planet.
The minimoon, called 2020 CD3, was detected on February 15 by scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey.
Kasper Wierzchos, one of the scientists on the study, tweeted the news, writing: “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.”
The minimoon is believed to have entered Earth’s orbit around three years ago, and appears to measure between 1.9 and 3.5 metres in diameter.
Mr Wierzchos added: “It's a big deal as out of ~ 1 million known asteroids, this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth.”
Only one minimoon has previously been detected – a 0.9-metre-wide asteroid called 2006 RH120, which orbited our planet for 18 months in 2006 and 2007.
However, the researchers believe that 2020 CD3 won’t be here for long.
Tony Dunn, an amateur astrophysicist, has created an animation of the minimoon’s orbital path, and suggests that it will make its exit in April 2020.
While our 2,000-mile-wide Moon has been orbiting Earth for over 4 billion years, minimoons are usually much smaller, and only orbit for months.
Despite this, minimoons are scientifically ‘extremely interesting’, according to Robert Jedicke, an astrophysicist at UH Manoa.
He said: “Minimoons are scientifically extremely interesting. A minimoon could someday be brought back to Earth, giving us a low-cost way to examine a sample of material that has not changed much since the beginning of our solar system over 4.6 billion years ago.”
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