Asteroid 2016 HO3 is earth’s quasi-satellite

Researchers have discovered ‘quasi-moon’ of earth. Astronomers said that the asteroid 2016 HO3 orbits the sun in such a manner that it never remains too far from earth, turning it a ‘quasi-satellite’ of our mother planet.

Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said that they have carried out calculations. On the basis of the same, they can conclude that the asteroid has been a stable quasi-satellite of earth for around a century. In fact, it will continue to play the role for many more centuries to come.

On April 27, astronomers discovered the asteroid with the help of Pan-STARRS 1 survey telescope in Hawaii. Scientists for now are not aware of the exact size of the asteroid. As per their estimation, the asteroid is between 130 feet and 330 feet wide.

When the asteroid takes a circle around the sun, it also loops around earth, said NASA. Relative to earth, the asteroid’s orbit is slightly tilted. With passage of time, the asteroid tends to twist and drift, but earth’s gravitational pull keeps the asteroid contained. “In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a little dance with Earth”, said Chodas.

There has never been a chance in which 2016 HO3 has comes closer to earth than nine million miles and does not stay father than 24 million miles away. Owing to the distance, the researchers do not think that the asteroid could ever hit earth.

Chodas said that there was one more asteroid called 2003 YN107, which also moved in a similar orbital pattern for over a decade, but it has departed earth’s vicinity.

According to a story published on the topic by Space News, ” 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.”

As the space rock circles the sun, it loops around Earth as well, zooming ahead of the planet half of the time and trailing behind the other half, NASA officials said. 2016 HO3’s orbit is tilted slightly relative to that of Earth, so the asteroid also bobs up and down through our planet’s orbital plane. The path of 2016 HO3 tends to twist and drift over time, but Earth’s gravitational pull keeps the asteroid contained: It never comes closer than 9 million miles (14.5 million kilometers) to our planet, and it never gets more than 24 million miles (38.6 million km) away.

The asteroid is not going to hit us — NASA says it never gets closer than 9 million miles (14 million kilometers) from Earth. So does this mean Earth has another moon? NASA says that because the asteroid is so far away it can’t be considered a natural moon, or satellite. Instead, they’re calling 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”,” according to a recent CNN News report.

And some scientists think there could be other “mini-moons” orbiting the Earth — some permanent and some temporary. In 2012, researchers using a super computer concluded “that at any given time there should be at least one asteroid with a diameter of at least one meter orbiting Earth.” And there could be many smaller objects orbiting Earth as well.

A report published in Tech Times informed, ” Considered as Earth’s “quasi-moon,” a small asteroid has been circling around our planet for half a century now. The asteroid’s qualities make it an interesting object for study. A small asteroid has been discovered “dancing” with Earth, as the two objects move around the sun together for more than 50 years. Known as Asteroid 2016 HO3, Earth’s “quasi-moon” remained undetected until now, but NASA scientists say it isn’t going to get away anytime soon either. Calculations suggest that 2016 HO3 has been a constant companion of Earth for nearly a century, says Paul Chodas of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. This pattern will continue for years to come.”

NASA says the asteroid is too far away to hit our planet because it circles around Earth from 14 million kilometers (9 million miles) away. It’s also too distant to be considered as a true satellite of Earth, scientists say, but it is indeed the most stable sample to date of a near-Earth companion or quasi-satellite. Another asteroid called 2003 YN107 moved along a similar orbital pattern for a brief period more than 10 years ago, but the asteroid has departed Earth’s vicinity.

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