Astronomers discovered a small asteroid, in an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth, and it will remain so for centuries to come.
Above, Asteroid 2016 HO3. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
As it orbits the sun, this new asteroid 2016 HO3, appears to circle around Earth as well.
It is too distant to be considered a true satellite of our planet, but it is the best and most stable example to date of a near-Earth companion, or “quasi-satellite.”
Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said:
“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. One other asteroid — 2003 YN107 — followed a similar orbital pattern for a while over 10 years ago, but it has since departed our vicinity. 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.”