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AstroAlert: One moon wasn’t enough…

Hi everyone,
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Astronomers have announced the discovery of a previously unknown moon orbiting the Earth. That’s right, our planet now has two moons. This new one has even been given a name: 2020 CD3.
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But don’t get too excited. It’s actually a mini-moon, only about the size of a car. And it’s only a temporary visitor.
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2020 CD3 was discovered on February 15th by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey, located near Tucson, Arizona. The NASA-funded survey, operated by the University of Arizona, uses three telescopes to search the night sky for potentially hazardous objects that pass near the Earth.

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Earth’s new moon, 2002 CD3, is the small streak in the green circle

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One of the Catalina Sky Survey telescopes near Tucson

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It’s not our planet’s first new moon. Earth’s gravity is known to occasionally capture small asteroids and other space rocks that wander by. These cosmic interlopers remain in orbit for periods of a few months or years before eventually drifting off into space again. In fact, at any given time there might be several mini-moons orbiting the Earth. They usually escape detection because they’re small and hard to see.
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Based on 2020 CD3’s orbit, astronomers speculate that it might have been orbiting our planet for the past three years. When it will leave is anybody’s guess.
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If you’d like to know more about Earth’s new mini-moon, just click on the links below:
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You can also watch a short video below showing its orbit and discovery images.
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Best regards,

Michael
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Dr. Michael West is Lowell Observatory’s Deputy Director for Science. Follow his AstroAlerts to receive breaking news stories from the world of astronomy, odd bits of astronomical lore, and information about upcoming astronomical events. You can reach him at mwest@lowell.edu or follow him on Twitter @curatedcosmos.
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