Quasi-satellite not quite Earth’s new moon

Asteroid 2016 HO3 tags along as Earth orbits the Sun. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s not quite a new moon orbiting Earth; it’s a quasi-satellite. That’s how NASA describes 2016 HO3, the tiny asteroid tagging along with us as we saunter around the Sun. The little guy is somewhere between 40 and 100 meters in diameter. Its orbit around our planet is about 100 times farther away than the Moon’s, meaning some of the time it’s closer to the Sun than to Earth.

While 2016HO3 has been circling us for about the last 100 years, astronomers only noticed it last summer. Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies says on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory website, “One other asteroid — 2003 YN107 — followed a similar orbital pattern for a while 10 years ago, but it has since departed our vicinity.” Chodas says calculations estimate this quasi-satellite will probably remain in our orbit for a few more hundred years.

 

 

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