DR. SKY BLOG

Astronomers locate, identify earth’s first orbiting asteroid

Oct 25, 2017, 7:45 PM

(Flickr/NASA HQ PHOTO)...

(Flickr/NASA HQ PHOTO)

(Flickr/NASA HQ PHOTO)

Asteroids lie in the orbit between Mars and Jupiter and, to date, there may be more than 2 million asteroids in this unique region of the solar system.

Many of these asteroids pass the Earth in defined orbits which astronomers have calculated over time.

But for the first time astronomers can say with certainty that a small asteroid known as 2016 HO3 has a true orbit around the earth.

This 330-foot diameter asteroid was discovered in Hawaii and is now considered a true “quasi-satellite” of earth.

The tiny satellite was captured by one of the largest telescopes in the world back in 2016.

There have been other smaller objects that were thought to be satellites of earth and have since lost gravity capture with the planet.

The asteroid has an orbital period of 366 days — nearly like earth — making it the most stable of any of the previous “quasi-satellites” of our planet.

This small rock comes within 9 million miles of us at its closest and retreats to some 24 million miles at its farthest, meaning there is no chance that the tiny asteroid will hit us in the near future.

Up till now, many in the scientific community thought that 2016 HO3 might be a dormant booster rocket from older rocket launches, but that has now been proven to be false.

Other asteroids of this class, known as “Temporary Captured Objects,” only make three orbits before they are ejected out into space. Thus, 2016 HO3 has been proven to be a true earth-orbiting body.

The tiny asteroid might make for a great destination for a manned mission to capture material from this yet unknown source of origin.

To get your very own October sky chart, click here.

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Astronomers locate, identify earth’s first orbiting asteroid