NASA findings show that a mini-moon has been orbiting our planet for almost a century. This new ‘moon’ is a small asteroid that has been orbiting us, and it will continue to do so for centuries to come.
Known as “Asteroid 2016 HO3,” this new companion of Earth is about 120 feet to 300 feet in diameter. It revolves around the sun in a similar orbit as Earth as it circles our planet.
Researchers discovered our new moon on April 27, 2016, using the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope in Haleakala, Hawaii.
Asteroid 2016 HO3 takes 365.93 days to complete its circle around the Sun, which is barely longer than Earth’s 365.24 day-long year.
It is tilted by about 8°. Due to its tilt and elliptical orbit, sometimes it’s faster than Earth and sometimes it’s slower.
Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies said, “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. The same effect also prevents the asteroid from approaching much closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon. In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a little dance with Earth.”