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Earth’s New Asteroid Companion Discovered

Earth’s New Asteroid Companion DiscoveredEarth’s New Asteroid Companion Discovered

NASA astronomers have discovered a tiny asteroid that is constantly orbiting the Earth around the sun.

The newly found asteroid, 2016 HO3, was spotted first on April 27 by the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii.

While the size of the “quasi-satellite” has not been confirmed yet, it’s expected to be between 130 feet and 330 feet wide (40 to 100 meters). Astronomers claim that the asteroid has been out there for about 50 years and will probably stay for centuries to come.

According to Science World Report, the new asteroid orbits the sun and constantly circles around the Earth as well. It is, however, too far to be considered a natural moon or a true satellite of the Earth. Instead, it can be referred to as 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,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Fortunately, 2016 HO3 never gets closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon and never gets further away than about 100 times the distance of the moon. So, there’s no danger of the asteroid crashing into the earth.

The path of 2016 HO3 tends to twist and drift over time, but Earth’s gravitational pull keeps the asteroid contained. The asteroid is not expected to come in contact with the Earth during its time as a co-orbital companion.

“In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a little dance with Earth,” Chodas said.