According to the latest discovery, our planet has a mini-moon. This object has been orbiting around our planet.
The new ‘moon’ is a small asteroid that has been orbiting us for some time and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, according to boffins at Nasa.
The asteroid – named 2016 HO3 – is orbiting too far from our home planet to be considered another moon as it often reached points that are closer to the Sun than the Earth, which is why Nasa has deemed it a “near-Earth companion” or a “quasi-satellite”.
Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 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.
“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.
“The same effect also prevents the asteroid from approaching much closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon. In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a little dance with Earth.”