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New Mini Moon Spotted Orbiting Earth

Aug 30, 2016 03:32 AM EDT
Supermoon Eclipse Visible In Skies Over North America
New mini moon spotted orbiting the Earth
(Photo : Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

It is a known fact that the Earth has one moon, but scientists have spotted a mini moon that is orbiting around the planet. The mini moon goes by the name 2016 HO3. Yet, the said mini moon is technically an asteroid.

The discovery was made by NASA scientists from the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) located in Mount Haleakala in Hawaii. 2016 HO3 is an asteroid, or quasi-satellite, that has been "caught in a little dance with the earth." NASA estimates that the object is 120 feet and 300 feet in diameter.

"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," stated Paul Chodas, the manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies.

This mini moon is around 100 times the distance of the moon from planet earth. The space agency also adds that the mini moon joins a few other space rocks that have come into close contact with the earth.

"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," explained Chodas, adding, "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."

2016 HO3 reportedly moves in sync with planet earth. Researchers add that it takes the asteroid 365.93 days to orbit the sun. Also, due to the gravitational pull of the earth, the mini moon has not wandered more than 40 million kilometres from the planet.

This of course is not the first time the gravitational pull of the earth has dragged along a companion in orbit. A decade ago, NASA spotted an asteroid that followed the same orbital pattern. This asteroid, however, has disappeared from an observable point by NASA.

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