Have you heard about this fun new discovery? Earth has a small companion (smaller than the Statue of Liberty) that has been looping around our world while the duo makes their way around the sun. According to scientists, this dance routine has been going on for a hundred years.
“The asteroid’s loops around Earth drift a little ahead or behind from year to year, but when they drift too far forward or backward, Earth’s gravity is just strong enough to reverse the drift and hold onto the asteroid so that it never wanders farther away than about 100 times the distance of the moon,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies.
It’s not a true satellite like the moon because 2016 HO3 is a little too far from Earth. So, scientists are calling it a “quasi-satellite.”
Another asteroid — 2003 YN107 — followed a similar orbital pattern for a while over 10 years ago, but has left the neighborhood since. However, 2016 HO3 is much more locked and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. NASA scientists say it will continue to accompany the planet in orbit around the sun for centuries more, never coming closer than about 9 million miles from Earth.
Pretty cool, isn’t it?