Earth could have a brand new MOON as our gravity 'captures' nearby asteroid

EARTH may have a brand new "mini moon" after gravity yanked an asteroid into orbit.

Astronomers were shocked to find that space rock "2020 CD3" has actually been circling Earth for three years.

Our new space neighbour was discovered on February 15 by astronomers at Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey.

And it's one of just a handful of Earthly "mini moons" ever discovered.

The news was announced the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, which flags up smaller space objects.

"The object is temporarily bound to the Earth," astronomers at the MPC said.

"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."

We don't know exactly how big it is yet – but astronomers estimate it's roughly six to 12 feet.

That's based on sunlight reflected from the object, allowing for a guess at its possible size.

The Moon is Earth's only major natural satellite, but that doesn't mean we're all alone in our quiet corner of space.

A small natural object named 2006 RH120 was confirmed to have entered a temporary Earth orbit during 2006 and 2007.

And 2020 CD3 appears to be the second example of this kind of scenario.

The Moon – our closest neighbour explained

Here's what you need to know…

  • The Moon is a natural satellite – a space-faring body that orbits a planet
  • It's Earth's only natural satellite, and is the fifth biggest in the Solar System
  • The Moon measures 2,158 miles across, roughly 0.27 times the diameter of Earth
  • Temperatures on the Moon range from minus 173 degrees Celcius to 260 degrees Celcius
  • Experts assumed the Moon was another planet, until Nicolaus Copernicus outlined his theory about our Solar System in 1543
  • It was eventually assigned to a "class" after Galileo discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter in 1610
  • The Moon is believed to have formed around 4.51billion years ago
  • The strength of its gravitational field is about a sixth of Earth's gravity
  • Earth and the Moon have "synchronous rotation", which means we always see the same side of the Moon – hence the phrase "dark side of the Moon"
  • The Moon's surface is actually dark, but appears bright in the sky due to its reflective ground
  • During a solar eclipse, the Moon covers the Sun almost completely. Both objects appear a similar size in the sky because the Sun is both 400 times larger and farther
  • The first spacecraft to reach the Moon was in 1959, as part of the Soviet Union's Lunar program
  • The first manned orbital mission was Nasa's Apollo 8 in 1968
  • And the first manned lunar landing was in 1969, as part of the Apollo 11 mission

That's not all.

On April 27, 2016, an asteroid called 469219 Kamo'oalewa was found to be a stable "quasi-satellite".

It's not a true satellite, but instead orbits the Sun and circles around Earth as well in a "co-orbit".

Kamo'oalewa is also much bigger than 2020 CD3 at 135 feet.

But both asteroids pale in comparison to the proper Moon, which is around 2,160 miles across.

"Earth has a new temporarily captured object/possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3," said Kacper Wierzchos, of the Catalina Sky Survey.

"On the night of February 15, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne and I found a 20th magnitude object.

"The object has just been announced by the MPC and its orbit shows that it entered Earth's orbit some three years ago.

"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 ~1 million known asteroids, this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth (after 2006 RH120, which was also discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey)."

Sadly, 2020 CD3 is believe to be a "temporary" moon, and may eventually drop back out of Earth's orbit.

In other news, a mind-blowing photo revealed by Nasa shows the ISS crossing in front of the Moon.

A supersonic 990mph Nasa X-plane as quiet as the "thump of a car door" is nearly ready.

Nasa recently revealed a surreal photo of Earth taken from 4billion miles away.

Are you excited about our new space neighbour? Let us know in the comments!

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