- A tiny asteroid was discovered by scientists last April via a telescope based in Hawaii
- Named 2016 HO3, the asteroid orbits the sun and stays as a ‘constant companion’ to Earth
- Scientists claimed that the asteroid has been a stable quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century now
Scientists has discovered last April via a telescope based in Hawaii a tiny asteroid with a size between 40 to 100 meters that has been orbiting earth for nearly a century.
As revealed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the rock is too distant from the Earth but it is stable enough to be considered a “near-earth companion” or a “quasi-satellite,” an article published by The Independent stated.
Named 2016 HO3 which is derived from the year it was discovered, the asteroid orbits the sun but also stays as a ‘constant companion’ to Earth.
Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained that since the tiny asteroid loops the Earth but never ventures far away from it they referred to it as planetary quasi-satellite further mentioning that one asteroid named 2003 YN107 followed a similar orbital pattern for a while about a decade ago but departed earth’s vicinity afterwards.
“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 was quoted saying.
Based on the description of NASA, 2016 HO3 spends about half of the year closer to the sun than to Earth, passing ahead of it. But the rest of the time it falls away. Furthermore, the agency also described its orbit as a game of leap frog with Earth.
“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,” Chodas disclosed further stating that the same effect also prevents the asteroid from approaching much closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon.