While observing the skies for potential planet – destroying asteroids, NASA-funded scientists have spotted something surprising earlier this year: Earth is being circled by another moon-like giant rock.
This second moon doesn’t quite resemble the one we’re used to seeing in the starry night sky, however new discovery asteroid is a constant companion of Earth and will continue to do so for centuries.
Unlike the moon, the asteroid called 2016 HO3 is not a true satellite of Earth in spite it orbits the sun, NASA called it a “game of leap frog” with Earth.
“Since 2016 HO3 loops around our planet, but never ventures very far away as we both go around the sun, we refer to it as a quasi-satellite of Earth,” explained Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “One other asteroid — 2003 YN107 — followed a similar orbital pattern for a while over 10 years ago, but it has since departed our vicinity. This new asteroid is much more locked onto us. Our calculations indicate 2016 HO3 has been a stable quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century, and it will continue to follow this pattern as Earth’s companion for centuries to come” .
The asteroid was discovered by the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope located in Haleakala, Hawaii which is considered to be highly elliptical. This makes it able to travel within the ranges of 38 to 100 times the distance of our “first moon”. Expected to never get closer than about 14 million kilometers from Earth, scientists believe 2016 HO3 will never stray off its course more than 40 million kilometers .
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