Characterization of Temporarily-Captured Minimoon 2020 CD$_3$ by Keck Time-resolved Spectrophotometry


We present time-resolved visible spectrophotometry of minimoon 2020 CD$_3$, the second asteroid known to become temporarily captured by the Earth-Moon system’s gravitational field. The spectrophotometry was taken with Keck I/LRIS between wavelengths 434 nm and 912 nm in $B$, $g$, $V$, $R$, $I$ and RG850 filters as it was leaving the Earth-Moon system on 2020 March 23 UTC. The spectrophotometry of 2020 CD$_3$ most closely resembles the spectra of V-type asteroids and some Lunar rock samples with a reddish slope of ~18$%$/100 nm between 434 nm and 761 nm corresponding to colors of $g$-$r$ = 0.62$pm$0.08, $r$-$i$ = 0.21 $pm$ 0.06 and an absorption band at ~900 nm corresponding to $i$-$z$ = -0.54$pm$0.10. Combining our measured 31.9$pm$0.1 absolute magnitude with an albedo of 0.35 typical for V-type asteroids, we determine 2020 CD$_3$’s diameter to be ~0.9$pm$0.1 m making it the first minimoon and one of the smallest asteroids to be spectrally studied. We use our time-series photometry to detect periodic lightcurve variations with a $<$10$^{-4}$ false alarm probability corresponding to a lightcurve period of ~573 s and a lightcurve amplitude of ~1 mag implying 2020 CD$_3$ possesses a $b/a$ axial ratio of ~2.5. In addition, we extend the observational arc of 2020 CD$_3$ to 37 days between 2020 February 15 UTC and 2020 March 23 UTC. From the improved orbital solution for 2020 CD$_3$, we estimate its likely duration of its capture to be ~2 y, and we measure the non-gravitation perturbation on its orbit due to radiation pressure with an area-to-mass ratio of 6.9$pm$2.4$times$10$^{-4}$ m$^2$/kg implying a density of 2.3$pm$0.8 g/cm$^3$, broadly compatible with the densities of other meter-scale asteroids and Lunar rock. We searched for pre-discovery detections of 2020 CD$_3$ in the ZTF archive as far back as 2018 October, but were unable to locate any positive detections.