Tumbling by means of Earth’s more and more crowded orbit are about 5,000 satellites, half 1,000,000 items of human-made particles and just one confirmed pure object: the moon. Now, astronomers figuring out of the College of Arizona’s Steward Observatory suppose they might have found a second pure satellite tv for pc — or a minimum of a brief one.

Meet 2020 CD3, Earth’s latest potential “minimoon.”

A minimoon, also called a quickly captured object, is an area rock that will get caught in Earth’s orbit for a number of months or years earlier than capturing off into the distant photo voltaic system once more (or burning up in our planet’s ambiance).

Associated: Might the moon act as a fishing web for extraterrestrial life?

Whereas astronomers suspect there’s a minimum of one minimoon circling Earth at any given time, these tiny satellites are hardly ever found, probably due to their comparatively small measurement. Till now, just one confirmed minimoon has ever been detected: a 3–foot-wide (0.9 meters) asteroid known as 2006 RH120, which orbited Earth for 18 months in 2006 and 2007.

Now, there could also be a second. Kacper Wierzchos, a senior analysis specialist for the NASA and College of Arizona-funded Catalina Sky Survey, introduced the invention of a brand new quickly captured object via Twitter yesterday (Feb. 25). The item seems to measure between 6.2 and 11.5 ft (1.9 to three.5 m) in diameter and has a floor brightness typical of carbon-rich asteroids, Wierzchos wrote.

Based on an orbital mannequin by newbie astrophysicist and San Francisco highschool physics trainer Tony Dunn, the potential minimoon has probably been trapped by Earth’s gravity for about three years now and will make its exit in April 2020, resuming its usually scheduled journey across the solar.

In an ideal universe, our departing minimoon would fly off and turn into trapped by the moon’s gravity, creating a good rarer class of object: a moonmoon. Sadly, moonmoons stay solely theoretical, and our potential new minimoon comes with some caveats of its personal. Whereas the thing’s existence has since been confirmed by a number of different observatories, additional evaluation is required to say for sure that the thing is an extraterrestrial rock and never a big shard of area junk. Hopefully, we’ll have a solution earlier than April.

Initially revealed on Dwell Science.