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NASA Has Just Discovered Earth's 'Mini Moon' That's Been Following Us For A Century

NASA Has Just Discovered Earth's 'Mini Moon' That's Been Following Us For A Century

At this point, when we have people literally living in the sky at the International Space Station - you'd be forgiven for thinking that we know exactly what is around us.

We have one moon, right? RIGHT?! Well, apparently not, no. In this year of 2016 (nearly 47 years since we landed on the moon), scientists have somehow only just found out we've got a mini moon just chilling there.

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According to the Independent, this little moon has been following us for the last hundred years. I assume it was thinking to itself: 'uh, guys? Notice me? Please?!' If moons could think, that is.

They reckon that this little moon will be following us for centuries to come, which is pretty cool.

It's a little too far away to be absolutely considered a proper 'new moon', but NASA says that it is stable enough in our orbit to be considered a 'near-Earth companion' or a 'quasi-satellite'.

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This little guy has been given the very catchy name of '2016 HO3', which kind of looks like your ex-girlfriend's registration plate.

Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Indi: "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 mini moon is only about 40-100 metres across, so it's not like we can go and live there, but still nice to know, right?

Chodas continued: "The asteroids that loop 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."

What else is out there? Where's the aliens at?

Only time will tell.

Words by Mel Ramsay

Featured image credit: Getty

Topics: Science, Nasa, Discovery, scientists, Moon

Mel Ramsay

Mel Ramsay has been a Senior Journalist for Tyla and LADbible since 2015. She started her career writing obituaries and funeral guides online. Since then, her work has been published in a wide variety of national and local news sites. She is part of the BBC's Generation project and has spoken about young people, politics and mental health on television, radio and online. Contact her - [email protected]

 

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