Surprise! Newfound Asteroid Is ‘Quasi-Moon’ of Earth
The newfound asteroid 2016 HO3 has an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
It seems the moon is not Earth’s only cosmic companion.
The newly discovered asteroid 2016 HO3 orbits the sun in such a way that the space rock never strays too far from Earth, making it a “quasi-satellite” of our planet, scientists say.
“One other asteroid — 2003 YN107 — followed a similar orbital pattern for a while over 10 years ago, but it has since departed our vicinity,” Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement Wednesday (June 15).
“This new asteroid is much more locked onto us,” Chodas added. “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.”
Indeed, 2016 HO3 is the best example of an Earth quasi-satellite ever found, scientists said.