Astronomers discover ‘mini-moon’ asteroid that’s been orbiting Earth for 3 years

A NASA-funded organisation has discovered a washing-machine sized asteroid that has been orbiting the Earth for three years.

Researchers from the Catalina Sky Survey discovered the asteroid in the night sky of February 15.

Scientists studying the trajectory of the asteroid have called it a “mini-moon” as the fireball had circled the Earth before losing orbit.

The rare sighting is “big news” as this is only the second asteroid to orbit Earth when there are more than a million known asteroids.

The tiny cosmic object, now called 2020 CD3, is estimated to be six to 12 feet in diameter.

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Astronomers Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne are to thank for the incredible find.

The mini-moon was then spotted four times by February 17th, which was enough evidence for experts to confirm its orbit around Earth.

The team compared the orbiting fireball to the size of a washing machine and based on orbital trajections that it has been circling the Earth for three years.

The last mini-moon to appear in Earth’s gravity was last year which then fell from the sky over Australia.

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The asteroid was first spotted in August 2016 by the Australia's Desert Fireball Networkwho thought the fireball was a regular meteor.

In 2006 a mini-moon the size of a car orbited Earth for less than a year after its discovery before orbiting the Sun.

Our Moon, walked on by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and others from the Apollo missions, is 2,000-miles in diameter and has orbited the Earth for four billion years.

In contrast a mini-moon is thought to be a few feet across and only orbits the planet for less than a year before resuming its life as an asteroid or falling to Earth as a meteor fireball.

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Catalina Sky Survey is a NASA funded project supported by the Near Earth Object Observation Program (NEOO) under the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO).

The organisation is based in the University of Arizona and its main focus is tracking and discovering near-Earth objects.

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