When you were younger, you have probably learned that the Earth has 1 moon, while other planets can have more than one. This seems to be the fact for centuries, up until last year, when it was discovered that the Earth actually has a second “moon”. This fascinating fact has totally shaken up everything that we know about space. For now, let us get to know better this second “moon” and what scientists have discovered about it.
8. This second moon has been there for a while
Though NASA has only confirmed the existence of a second “moon” in 2016, the truth is that it has been there for nearly a century. According to NASA, it is larger than 120 feet across but not more than 300 feet. It is also expected to be there for many more centuries.
7. It doesn’t look like the moon that we see
If you are fascinated with how our moon looks like especially during a night with clear skies, you might not expect the same thing with this second “moon”. It looks more like the common asteroid that we know of. It also orbits around the sun and has been the Earth’s constant companion. This is why it was branded as the second “moon”.
6. It is way too far to deserve being called a true satellite
The reason why we really can’t call this new “moon” a true satellite is because it is too distant. It is considered the best example of a near-Earth companion though. It remains following the Earth’s orbit even if the Earth continues to orbit around the sun. This is why it is more formally termed as the quasi-satellite of the Earth.
5. There used to be a similar satellite as this one
Over 10 years ago, one other asteroid was discovered to have followed the same similar orbital pattern. It was named 2003 YN107. The thing is that it has since left. Therefore, it didn’t qualify as a quasi-satellite unlike this new one, which has been following the same orbital pattern of the Earth for centuries.
4. This “moon” can travel really long distances
This “moon” is considered to be highly elliptical. It can travel within the ranges of around 38 to 100 times longer than that of the Earth which is just 365.24. This is why it is expected to never get closer than 14 million kilometers from Earth. It is also believed that it will never go further away than 40 million kilometers.
3. How everything started
There are several theories as to how the second “moon” actually started. Since it has been there for centuries, it is assumed that it started with a hot and heavy crash that got the space objects tangled up with one another. As time goes by, the surfaces cool and the orbits start to drift afar from each other, but it didn’t go too far that it starts following a different orbit.
2. This satellite seems like it is dancing with the Earth
For now, this second moon is termed as “asteroid 2016 HO3”. It was written by George Dvorsky at Gizmodo. It is believed that its movement seems to be like a “little dance” with the Earth. The orbit is irregular. Hence, it can go really far from us relative to our primary moon. It can also bob up and down the orbital plane of the Earth, which is strange, but amazing. So to sum up, it moves in an orbit just like other satellites, but it also moves up and down the earth’s orbit.
1. How this “moon” was discovered
The asteroid 2016 HO3 was noticed first on 27 April 2016 with the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope located at Haleakala, Hawaii. That telescope is funded by the “Planetary Defence Coordination Office”. It is responsible for tracking objects that appear to be near the Earth. After confirmation, it was reported that this quasi-satellite indeed exists and what we know about space has fundamentally changed.