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Gemini Observatory's image of 2020 CD3. Photo: NSF/AURA/G. Fedorets

A likely "mini-moon" found orbiting Earth last month is moving away from our planet now, but it could be a harbinger of new small moons to come.

Why it matters: Objects like this one — which is thought to be a washing machine-sized asteroid captured by Earth's gravity — could allow scientists to one day study space rocks without needing to head all the way out to the asteroid belt.

  • "Because they have such similar orbits to the Earth ... they don't take as much energy to get to, on average, so they could be good places for us to send spacecraft," asteroid researcher Amy Mainzer told Axios.

What's happening: The mini-moon, named 2020 CD3, has likely been orbiting Earth for the past year, but it's taken until now for scientists to spot the small object.

  • The Catalina Sky Survey discovered 2020 CD3 on Feb. 15, marking only the second time in history that an object like this has been spotted.
  • According to NASA, the mini-moon has orbited Earth at least three times, with orbital periods that swing between 70 and 90 days, bringing it as far away as four times the distance between the Earth and our Moon.
  • The object's closest approach to Earth was about 25,000 miles from the planet's surface on Feb. 13.
  • 2020 CD3 is now expected to leave Earth behind early this month, escaping the planet's gravitational pull and moving into orbit around the Sun.

What's next: Scientists think there is likely some kind of mini-moon orbiting Earth at any given time.

  • Observatories expected to come online in the next few years will likely be able to spot far more of these objects than scientists are able to study today.
  • Space-based small satellite missions might even be able to one day meet up with a mini-moon to get a close-up look at it.

Go deeper: NASA racing to get astronauts to the moon in four years

Go deeper

Evictions lead to rare clash between the White House and Dems

Demonstrators listen as Rep. Cori Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, right, speaks at the U.S. Capitol during a protest against the expiration of the eviction moratorium. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House and Democratic leaders have been dueling — publicly and privately — over who should take responsibility for extending an eviction moratorium that could protect millions of people on the verge of homelessness.

Why it matters: It's a rare moment of dysfunction between the usually-in-lockstep Biden team and congressional leadership.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

Sen. Lindsey Graham tests positive for COVID-19

Lindsey Graham. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, despite being vaccinated.

Why it matters: Graham emphasized that the mildness of his symptoms is due to being vaccinated. If he had been unvaccinated his symptoms would be "far worse," he said.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

U.S. consulting with U.K., Romania and Israel on response to alleged Iran attack

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The British and Romanian governments summoned the Iranian ambassadors to London and Bucharest on Monday to protest last week's drone strike on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which both countries have attributed to Iran.

The latest: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a briefing Monday that the U.S. is consulting with the U.K., Romania and Israel to prepare a collective response to the alleged Iranian attack.