Mini-Moon Leaves Earth’s Orbit Heads Toward the Sun
The Earth’s gravity will release its hold on mini-moon 2020 SO sometime in March 2021 — it will head toward the sun. On February 1 and 2, the “second” moon will make one more close approach to Earth, and there is an opportunity for the public to watch, thanks to the Virtual Telescope Project in Rome.
Join Astrophysicist Gianluca Masi for the live feed on February 1, beginning at 5:00 p.m. ET (22:00 UTC). Mini-moon 2020 SO will be the easiest to see “above the Virtual Telescope’s robotic telescopes in central Italy,” reports EarthSky.
What Is a Mini-Moon?
Mini-moons are small asteroids that are temporarily captured by Earth’s gravity and thrust back into the solar system.
NASA confirms there were two mini-moons in the planet’s orbit between 2006 and 2007 and between 2018 and 2020; 2006 RH120 and 2020 CD3 respectively.
2020 SO has been in the planet’s gravity since Nov. 8, 2020. However, this mini-moon is not an asteroid, it is a piece of space junk.
Between the time astronomers first noticed the object and when it passed the Earth on December 1, they determined it was an Atlas LV-3C Centaur-D. The rocket booster launched the “Surveyor 2 spacecraft toward the moon in 1966.”
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
EarthSky: Say goodbye to Earth’s mini-moon on February 1 and 2; by Eddie Irizarry and Deborah Byrd
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of penny meyer’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License