Guess What? Earth Has A Second (Mini) Moon!

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Photo Credit: Youtube scre

Always wished we had a second Moon? Then you are in luck! NASA scientists from the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) on Mount Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii recently discovered a small asteroid that they believe has been looping Earth for at least a century. But despite its unwavering loyalty to our planet, the researchers have no intention of calling it a moon. Instead, they refer to the asteroid, which has been dubbed 2016 H03, as a “quasi-moon” or “near-earth companion.”

That’s because while the asteroid that is believed to be between 120-ft.(40m) – 300-ft.(100m) in size loops around Earth, its orbit is around the sun! However, since its path closely mimics that of Earth’s, 2016 H03 moves in sync with our planet. According to the researchers, it takes the asteroid 365.93 days (just 16.6 hours longer than Earth) to orbit the sun.

Photo Credit: NASA.Gov (YouTube screen capture)

The scientists say that 2016 H03 spends half its orbit closer to the sun, than Earth. As a result, it zips past our planet during the initial part of the year. This pattern reverses in the latter half as the asteroid drifts away from the sun causing it to lag behind Earth. However, thanks to the Earth’s gravitational pull, 2016 H03 never wanders more than about 40 million kilometers (about one-hundred times the distance of the moon) from our planet. This same effect also prevents the asteroid from getting closer than 14 million kilometers (about thirty-eight times the distance of the moon) to Earth. As Paul Chodas, the manager of PDCO that monitors asteroids and comets that get too close to Earth says, the quasi-moon is caught in a “little dance with Earth.”

This is not the first time the Earth’s gravitational pull has dragged in a companion. About a decade ago, an asteroid dubbed 2003 YN107 had displayed a similar orbital pattern. However, it appears to have disappeared, at least from the observable vicinity. But NASA researchers say that will not happen with 2016 H03, which they believe is much more ‘locked-on’ to our planet. According to their calculations, this near-earth companion will remain Earth’s “dance partner” for at least another century, if not more.

Photo Credit: Paul Chodas, JPL

While discovering the quasi-moon is certainly exciting, what is even more so, is that 2016 H03 could be an attractive destination for the first ever “Near-Earth Object” space mission. That’s because the scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) believe we could reach the asteroid in about 65 days. This means that astronauts could theoretically complete the entire mission in as little as 145 days — Something JPL researchers believe could be feasible in the near future. So watch out 2016 H03, humans may soon be making their way to examine you up close!

Resources: NASA.gov, slate.com

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asteroiddecadedestinationdubbedfeasiblegravitationallattersynctheoreticallyvicinity

Geography

Maui, HI
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Reading Comprehension (8 questions)

  1. How long has asteroid 2016 H03 been looping Earth?
  2. Why are the scientists not willing to call 2016 H03 a Moon?

Critical Thinking Challenge

Why is it important for NASA to have a department dedicated to keeping...

Vocabulary in Context

This pattern reverses in the latter half as the asteroid drifts away from the sun causing it to lag behind Earth.

In the above sentence, the word latter most likely means:

(a) being...

298 Comments
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  • deimos
    deimosWednesday, June 21, 2017 at 7:26 am
    Whaaaa???
    • bobyzacwhyTuesday, June 20, 2017 at 4:57 pm
      i'm from there!
      • pandicorn<3<3Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 6:00 pm
        Whaa???? an asteroid?????????????
        • rosey Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 1:40 pm
          i didnt know that eath have a second moon i also love reading about space '
          • rosey Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 1:39 pm
            hi ilove this article
            • nameunnowenMonday, June 5, 2017 at 7:15 pm
              its not a MOON its an astroid
              • prettyandsweet Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 5:00 pm
                I LOVE THIS ARTICAL IT IS AWESOME !!!!!! =WOW!!!!!
                • nascarlover
                  nascarloverThursday, May 25, 2017 at 5:00 am
                  IT,S an asteroid?
                  • ribbitfrog
                    ribbitfrogTuesday, May 23, 2017 at 8:03 am
                    SO COOL
                    • Cubs_52Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 10:28 am
                      WOW

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