Mini-moon /ˈminēˌmo͞on/: (1) a shorter, low-key honeymoon that may or may not proceed a more grandiose fête; (2) Sailor Moon’s bubblegum-pink–haired daughter, also known as Chibiusa; or (3) what scientists are calling the new object circulating Earth, which I’m calling the moon’s new tiny friend.
Last week, astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona spotted something peculiar moving across the sky, which they and other observatories around the world followed with a close eye. On Thursday, astronomer Kacper Wierzchos announced the survey’s exciting discovery: That Earth appears to have “captured” a new mini-moon — a small asteroid that temporarily orbits Earth — dubbed 2020 CD3.
We even have photos of the new moon, which look sort of like ultrasounds:
While we have just now learned of the mini-moon’s existence, as it turns out, it’s been circling the Earth for about three years, according Popular Mechanics. It’s also not as small as you might think: Scientists say the mini-moon is the size of a car — which I guess is tiny in comparison to the moon.
And, unlike the moon, it isn’t long for this Earthly orbit: As noted by Wierzchos and the International Astronomical Union, the mini-moon is “temporary,” meaning it’ll eventually leave us behind to go explore the rest of space.
It is a little sad, don’t you think, that this mini-moon won’t always be with us — and more importantly, our big moon. But there’s no need to prematurely mourn it’s impending departure: As noted by Popular Mechanics, this mini-moon wasn’t the first to circle Earth; presumably, it won’t be the last.