NOVEMBER 23, 2020
Lowell Scientists Help Characterize Second Known Minimoon
Flagstaff, AZ. – Astronomers using data collected with the Lowell Discovery Telescope (LDT) have helped to characterize only the second known minimoon of Earth, a newly discovered asteroid with the designation 2020 CD3, or CD3 for short. The LDT observations helped to clarify both the rotation rate and the orbit of this diminutive body, the latter of which helped prove that CD3 is a natural body and not some relic piece of human-made space junk.
Minimoons are small asteroids temporarily captured into orbit around Earth. Within about a year, they are flung back into interplanetary space. The first known minimoon, 2006 RH120, was detected 14 years ago.
CD3 was discovered on February 15, 2020 by Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne via the Catalina Sky Survey, operating out of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Due to the rarity of minimoons, a global effort led by postdoctoral research fellow Grigori Fedorets of Queen’s University Belfast was quickly launched to study this object. Twenty-three researchers from 14 academic institutions in seven countries participated, using several telescopes including the LDT. The team made observations through mid-May 2020 and published ...