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(Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIARL/AURA/G. Fedorets)

We Now Have a Beautiful Colour Image of Earth's Minimoon

JACINTA BOWLER
28 FEBRUARY 2020

Dear Moon, we love you very much. For 4.51 billion years you've been a steady and true orbital companion.

So, with that in mind, please excuse us for a brief moment while we absolutely freak out over the tiny minimoon we've just discovered looping around our planet.

 

Designated 2020 CD3, so far we know that it's likely a car-sized piece of carbonaceous rock, and has been in orbit for about three years already.

On February 24, the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii took a beautiful colour photo of our new friend, with the 8-meter Gemini North telescope.

minimoon TARcropcln CC 2x enlarged 1(Gemini Observatory/NSF's NOIARL/AURA/G. Fedorets)

Combining three images with different filters, the picture shows our little minimoon as the spot in the centre of the image, with the colourful stars blurry around it.

It looks this way because the minimoon was being tracked over the sky; as the camera moves, the stars (which don't move as much) blur.

Alas, our new tiny friend will not be around forever.

"Obtaining the images was a scramble for the Gemini team because the object is quickly becoming fainter as it moves away from Earth," explains Gemini Observatory astronomer John Blakeslee.

"It is expected to be ejected from Earth's orbit altogether in April."

Although it might be too late for us to become further acquainted with little 2020 CD3, researchers think there are many more of such minimoons out there – we just need to find them.

"We expect to find a population of these objects once the Rubin Observatory is operational," said Grigori Fedorets, the lead astronomer for the Gemini observations. 

"Stay tuned!"