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The Spill: 2020 CD3 in Orbit

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Earth Gains a New Moon

The Earth has a new moon, but it probably won’t hang around for long. It was discovered on February 19 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona. A dim object was seen moving fast across the sky, so for the next few days observatories from around the world kept an eye on it too. They named the object 2020 CD3.

The new moon is about the size of a car. Scientists still don’t know where it came from, but one theory is that 2020 CD3 traveled from the solar system’s main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. This is not like the moon we are used to seeing; it is a “minimoon” – an asteroid that got pulled into orbit by the Earth’s gravity.

The minimoon circles the planet about once every 47 days. Its orbit isn’t stable, so it will eventually be flung away from the Earth. “It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak,” Grigori Fedorets from the Queen’s University Belfast in the United Kingdom said. It could be gone as soon as April.

This isn’t the first asteroid to be captured by the Earth’s gravitational pull. The first known minimoon, 2006 RH120, orbited for almost a year.

Joe Biden Steams Ahead in Primaries

The 2020 election is just around the corner. The Democratic Party is holding primaries to decide who will go up against the Republican Party candidate, President Trump. A primary is a state vote where people can choose between candidates in the same party. After each state has decided, the winning candidate will get to represent the party in the 2020 election.

The race has narrowed to just two serious contestants: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

The first primaries and caucuses gave Sanders a head start, but Biden had a surprise catch-up on Super Tuesday. He pulled even further ahead on March 10, when six states held primaries.

March 10 saw Biden pull far ahead of Sanders, winning four of the six participating states: Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri. Sanders won North Dakota. Washington hasn’t declared a winner, but the race is neck-and-neck in that state.

Who is Joe Biden, anyway? Born in 1942, he was raised in Pennsylvania and Delaware before studying law. He joined the Democratic Party and was elected as a Delaware Senator in 1972. He stayed in the Senate until 2009, then served as vice president under President Barack Obama.

Biden tried to become president in 1988 and 2008, but failed – will 2020 finally be the year he achieves this goal?

Student Names Mars Rover

How would you like to name NASA’s Mars Rover? One lucky student got that honor after winning an essay contest. Alex Mather, a seventh-grade student from Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia, named the rover on March 5.  He called it Perseverance. Mather got up on stage and read from his winning essay:

“If rovers are to be the quality of us as a race … we missed the most important thing: perseverance. We are a species of explorers and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. We, not as a nation but as humans will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.”

Perseverance will make its voyage to Mars in July or August of this year and will travel the area called the Jezero Crater. Its mission is to collect samples that will be brought back to Earth in the future.

Rovers are designed to travel the red planet and gather geological materials such as rocks and sand to help scientists better understand Mars. The first rover was named Sojourner, after the abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth. It settled on Mars on July 4, 1997. Powered by solar panels, it was meant for only a one-week trip but ended up lasting for three months. It sent back more than 550 pictures to Earth.

In January 2004, two more rovers were sent: Spirit and Opportunity. Their mission was to seek out signs of past water on Mars. On August 6, 2012, the rover Curiosity touched down on the red planet. Its mission is to discover if Mars ever had the ability to host living creatures.

Perseverance will join its brothers and sisters this year and begin its own journey of discovery.

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