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Earth Has Its Very Own 'Pet' Asteroid That Follows Us Around The Sun

This little asteroid is trapped in an orbit that will last centuries

20/06/2016 09:21

A small asteroid has been discovered by NASA researchers that keeps an almost constant companionship with Earth.

As it orbits the sun, this tiny asteroid designated 2016 HO3 circles the Earth as well, trapped in a game of leap frog that will last for hundreds of years.

"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 (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

This actually isn't the first time that a small asteroid has become trapped in Earth's gravity from a distance.

13 years ago astroid 2003 YN107 was caught in a simuilar orbit and remained there for several years before managing to break free and disappearing off into the void.

Asteroid 2016 HO3 is considerably more attached to Earth and has been orbiting our planet for over a hundred years already.

Taking about a year to orbit the Earth it spends around 6 months ahead of Earth before quickly moving to tail it for the rest of the year.

Before anyone starts getting worried about 2016 HO3 getting too close to Earth Chodas has some good news.

Visuals Unlimited, Inc./GIPhotoStock via Getty Images
Asteroid 2016 HO3 was first spotted on April 27, 2016, by the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii.

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," said Chodas.

"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."

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