When we think of Earth’s moon, we imagine the bright white ball that helps to illuminate the night sky. However, the definition of a moon is a natural satellite that is captured by a planet’s gravitational pull.
So when experts say the Earth has more than one moon, they do not necessarily mean there are two or more of the giant white rocks in the sky.
What they actually mean is Earth has pulled in small asteroids that are now caught in its orbit.
On occasion, these minimoons can fall into Earth’s atmosphere, producing a fireball as they do.
And experts believe that Earth has caught another small moon, about the size of a car, and pulled it into its orbit.
The meteor is known as 2020 CD3, which is slowly drifting away from our planet.
Astronomer Kacper Wierzchos tweeted: “Earth has a new temporarily captured object/Possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3.
“On the night of Feb 15, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne and I found a 20th magnitude object.”
Grigori Fedorets at Queen’s University Belfast, told New Scientist that the orbit of the minimoon is not stable, and it will eventually be flung away from Earth.
He said: “It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak.”
In 2012, scientists used a supercomputer to run simulations on the movements of 10 million near-Earth asteroids that pass our planet.
Asteroids and meteors produce a bright explosion of fire when they hit the atmosphere as it is the first time the space rock has ever met resistance.
Air seeps into the pores and cracks of the rock, pushing it apart and causing it to explode.
The IMO said: “Fireballs are meteors that appear brighter than normal.
“Due to the velocity at which they strike the Earth’s atmosphere, fragments larger than one millimetre have the capability to produce a bright flash as they streak through the heavens above.
“These bright meteors are what we call fireballs and they often strike fear and awe for those who witness them.”