NASA finds tiny asteroid companion orbiting Earth

Published 20.06.2016 23:30

A small asteroid is the earth's new "quasi-satellite" and based on NASA's latest observations has been moving in an orbit around the sun for more than 100 years. The discovery means that the moon is not alone as this small asteroid accompanies it in its travels around the earth's orbit.

NASA recently discovered the asteroid, 2016 HO3, and named it a quasi-satellite. "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," said 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," Chodas further said. He described the small asteroid is caught in a little dance with the Earth.

Asteroid 2016 HO3 was first spotted in April by the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii. Although the asteroid's size is not fully determined, it is likely larger than 120 feet and smaller than 300 feet.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter