The mini-moon as it appears orbiting Earth.
The mini-moon as it appears orbiting Earth.

New ‘mini-moon’ orbiting Earth

A NEW "mini-moon" has been discovered orbiting the Earth, but it might not stick around for long.

The mini-moon, believed to be an asteroid, is what's known as a "temporarily captured object" (TCO), one that has entered the Earth's orbit but is likely to exit it back into the solar system.

The latest TCO, roughly 2-3.5 metres in diameter, was discovered by the NASA-backed Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona.

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The mini-moon as it appears orbiting Earth.
The mini-moon as it appears orbiting Earth.

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The program monitors the skies for potentially dangerous objects that come near Earth, and recently detected one it believes began orbiting Earth around three years ago.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Minor Planet Center announced the find on Tuesday.

Researchers Kacper Wierzchos and Theodore Pruyne made the discovery earlier this month and shared details on Twitter on Wednesday.

The Smithsonian said "the object is temporarily bound to the Earth" but "further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged" to figure out exactly what it is and where it came from.

It's only the second time an asteroid has begun orbiting the Earth, according to Mr Wierzchos

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The Catalina Sky Survey detected another asteroid orbiting Earth in 2006, but that asteroid might have also been space junk.

Its orbit appeared similar to spent rocket boosters from past space missions.


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