There's a Second Moon—a Mini-Moon—in Earth's Orbit

dottedhippo, iStock via Getty Images
dottedhippo, iStock via Getty Images

Moons are common in our solar system. In simple terms, a moon is a natural satellite caught in a planet's orbit. Based on that definition, a second moon—a mini-moon—has been circling Earth for a few years undetected by scientists, The Atlantic reports.

The Minor Planet Center—an international organization that studies asteroids, comets, and small natural satellites orbiting planets—announced recently that Earth has a new natural satellite of its own. The object, dubbed 2020 CD3, is roughly the size of a small car, and it's the only one of our planet's satellites, other than the actual Moon, that wasn't put into orbit by humans.

Astronomers concluded that 2020 CD3 has been there for at least a year and up to three, evading observation until February 15, 2020. It's not totally clear what the object it is, but most likely it was an asteroid that was pulled off course by Earth's gravity while flying close to the planet. There's a smaller chance it's a piece of the moon that flew into space following an impact.

The Moon's status as Earth's no.1 satellite isn't under threat. Mini-moons such as this one may appear fairly often, but because they're too small to reflect the Sun or be seen with the naked eye, most aren't documented before exiting orbit. The gravitational tug-of-war between the Moon, the Earth, and the Sun makes for unstable trajectories for such small objects, which eventually causes them to slip back into outer space. 2020 CD3, for instance, takes a wild, looping path around Earth that lasts about four months. The mini-moon may break away from our planet as early as April 2020.

2020 CD3 isn't the only noteworthy object in orbit. Here are five human-made things you can see from space.

[h/t The Atlantic]

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

SIGN UP TODAY: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping Newsletter!

Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Space Hero, a New Reality Show, Wants to Send You to the International Space Station

The ultimate ocean-view getaway.
The ultimate ocean-view getaway.

One lucky astronomy enthusiast may soon have the chance to see space without committing to a massive career change. As Travel + Leisure reports, an upcoming reality show called Space Hero is looking to send a civilian to the International Space Station (ISS).

You won’t need a degree in astrophysics or decades of engineering experience to enter, but a passion for space exploration is a must. The series will reportedly follow a group of contestants as they compete in challenges that reflect what actual astronauts have to go through, and viewers might get to vote for their favorite participant. The winner will then spend 10 days aboard the International Space Station, and the rest of us will watch it all unfold from home.

The series is a collaboration between a space media company called Space Hero Inc. and Axiom Space, the private aerospace company founded by NASA’s former ISS program manager Mike Suffredini. Axiom will oversee all the space-related elements of the show, from training the contestants to planning the journey itself, which is tentatively scheduled for 2023. As for how the winner will get to the ISS, they’ll likely be aboard one of SpaceX’s Dragon rockets.

Plenty of details are still up in the air. We don’t yet know, for example, how people can apply or audition for a spot on the show, who will host it, or where we can watch it. According to Deadline, it’s meant to be a worldwide phenomenon: Producers intend to hold an international search for contestants and broadcast the series across the globe.

While you’re waiting to find out how to toss your space helmet in the ring, here are 17 odd things we’ve sent to space.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]